Late in her presentation to the Nebraska Racing and Gaming Commission on Friday, Sharon Haselhoff was asked how soon it would be before table games were put into action at Grand Island Casino Resort.
“We’re thinking 6 o’clock,” said Haselhoff, the regional vice president for Elite Casino Resorts, which is managing the casino at Fonner Park.
Despite the laughter from the crowd and some board members, she wasn’t joking.
Minutes later — after the commission voted unanimously to allow five blackjack tables, a craps table, one for roulette and another for Texas hold ’em poker, along with 46 additional slot machines — Haselhoff confirmed to the Journal Star that the tables would be operational by the dinner hour.
The staff at Grand Island Casino Resort set up the tables — orange felt, if you were wondering — earlier this week and spent some time going through what amounted to a dress rehearsal.
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She and Vince Fiala, the casino’s general manager, had little doubt they would be ready for action by 6 p.m. Friday.
They are the first table games approved by the Racing and Gaming Commission and Chairman Dennis Lee said it’s fitting that the honor went to Fonner Park.
“This is a big day for Grand Island,” Lee said. “I think it’s appropriate that Grand Island be the first because of its long history in this state with horse racing.”
It was a big day for Grand Island, which will open its sports betting kiosk next week that, like the sports betting operation at WarHorse Lincoln, was given an expanded sports betting catalog by the board at Friday’s meeting.
The five-member board unanimously approved adding futures wagering along with World Boxing Association bouts and — just in time for Sunday’s championship game — men’s and women’s FIFA World Cup Soccer matches.
Grand Island Casino Resort is still operating out of a temporary facility, but Haselhoff said the addition of table games, sports betting and a total of 347 slot machines provides its guests with amenities never seen in the state of Nebraska.
“It creates an environment that is a lot more than gaming,” she said. “We’re giving more of a resort experience.”
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