Education Fund Could Reap $13M Annually From Lake Of The Ozarks Casino

Written By Adam Hensley on June 14, 2024
An aerial view of the Lake of the Ozarks

A potential Lake of the Ozarks casino could provide a big boost to Missouri’s casino industry.

It would also help out the state’s education system.

Residents are expected to vote on a referendum in November that aims to legalize the state’s 14th casino on the Osage River in the Ozarks.

If approved and built, proponents project the casino could provide nearly $13 million to Missouri schools each year.

Voters could vote on casino plan in November

Lawmakers have yet to legalize Missouri online casinos, but sweepstakes and social casinos are legal to play in Missouri. They feature online slots, table games and sometimes dealer games.

There’s still no guarantee that an Ozarks casino referendum will appear on November’s ballot. The Secretary of State’s Office received 320,000 signatures from the Osage River Gaming & Convention Committee and is currently working to certify them.

Bally’s is behind the casino proposal. It would be the company’s second casino in Missouri. It currently operates Bally’s Kansas City.

According to Russell Burdette, who runs Your Lake Vacation and is a member of the Tri-County Lodging Association, 2 million people visit the Ozarks every summer.

A casino in the area would be very popular during the warm months.

Schools would benefit from Ozarks casino

The ballot summary says that it expects taxes on casino winnings to total $14.3 million each year. Those tax dollars would go toward helping early childhood literacy programs in Missouri’s public schools.

In Missouri, 90% of casino tax revenue goes toward education. A casino in the Ozarks could bring Missouri schools another $12.9 million annually.

Additionally, the casino is projected to pay $2.1 million from admissions and fees each year. That money will go toward the local government with jurisdiction over the area and the Missouri Gaming Commission.

How much money could an Ozarks casino bring in?

Based on tax projections, proponents expect an Ozarks casino to generate close to $70 million in revenue every year.

Casinos in the state are taxed at 21% of their adjusted gross revenue (AGR). If taxes are predicted to be around $14.3 million each year, the expected AGR would be around $68 million.

Last year, when talks of adding a casino in the Lake of the Ozarks picked up, projections indicated it could see between $100 million and $150 million in annual revenue. If the lower $100 million figure pans out, the state would collect $21 million in taxes.

It’s worth noting that this potential casino would provide a boost to the local economy outside of taxes. Backers claim that it would provide an additional 700 to 800 jobs in the area.

Missouri Constitution would have to change

Chapter 313 of the Missouri Constitution currently limits the number of casinos in the state.

“The Missouri Gaming Commission shall not authorize additional excursion gambling boat licenses after November 4, 2008, that exceed the number of licenses which have been approved for excursion gambling boats already built and those under construction.”

That number is at 13. An amendment would bump it to 14.

Additionally, the constitution only allows for casinos along the Missouri River and Mississippi River. The new amendment would allow a casino to reside on the Osage River.

Ozarks casino has been in the works for a while

The idea of placing a casino in the Ozarks began in 2020. Investors said they wanted to change the state’s constitution to build a casino in the area. Rep. Rocky Miller even filed a bill to add a new casino in the Ozarks.

However, COVID-19 seemingly silenced those plans.

In 2021, the Osage Nation, a Native American tribe, bought land in the Ozarks and intends to build a casino there. It needs state and federal approval to build the casino, which would also be on the Osage River.

As with efforts to legalize Missouri sports betting, lawmakers failed to approve measures in 2021 and 2022 to allow a casino in the Ozarks.

Also, like sports betting, a political action committee was created to bypass the Missouri General Assembly and get the question before voters in November.

Photo by Shutterstock
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Adam Hensley

Adam Hensley is a journalist from Des Moines, Iowa, with experience covering online sports betting and gambling across Catena Media. His byline has appeared in the Associated Press, Sports Illustrated and sites within the USA Today Network. Hensley graduated from the University of Iowa in 2019 and spent his college career working for the Daily Iowan’s sports department, both as an editor and reporter.

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