A group of investors will ask for signatures over the next few months to try bringing a casino to the state’s most famous body of water.
The Osage River Gaming Group is leading a statewide casino referendum in 2024. If they get enough signatures, voters will decide whether a new Missouri casino is built on the Lake Of the Ozarks.
Missouri online casinos aren’t legal yet, and there isn’t a movement to change lawmakers’ attitudes anytime soon. On the other hand, the Missouri Gaming Commission regulates the 13 land-based casinos in the Show-Me State.
The petition is urging residents to allow casino gaming in the area. The City of Lake Ozark’s Board of Aldermen unanimously approved the casino ballot resolution, according to a report from the Lake Expo. Now, it is up to the locals to see if they will have an opportunity to make it a reality.
The group has until mid-April to get 173,000 signatures
Osage River Gaming comprises a group of local businesspeople spearheading the effort. The group wants voters to approve casino gambling along the Osage. The state narrowly passed an amendment to the constitution in 1994 that only allowed casino gambling on riverboats.
As a result, the massive hotel casinos in Missouri all technically touch water. Furthermore, the law limits the MGC to a maximum of 13 casino licenses. All of them are currently in use. Therefore, if the ballot initiative passes, regulators must close a casino elsewhere in the state.
Since the issue deals with gambling, the state must alter the constitution. However, the group can also phrase the question to add a 14th casino license as well. That would keep the government from forcing a separate property to shutter.
The ballot question being proposed would ask Missourians whether they would like to change the state constitution to allow a Missouri casino on the Osage River, to add an additional gaming license to the current number of 13 set by an old state statute and to earmark state tax revenues from that casino for teachers’ salaries.
The petition needs about 173,000 verified signatures to clear the citizen’s initiative petition process. However, the group is trying to gather more than 200,000 signatures to be safe. The group has until mid-April to collect the signatures to get the question on this November’s ballot.
The group opened offices in Missouri’s four largest cities: St. Louis, Kansas City, Columbia, and Springfield. There are around 100 people spread out over those four cities for the group’s signature-gathering efforts. The area includes the Lake of the Ozarks area.
The group has been hitting the streets daily. They also canvassed major events, including the Kansas City Chiefs NFL Playoff game last Saturday.
Osage Nation, Bally’s keeping an eye on new developments
Aside from the group, a couple o powerful entities are keeping tabs on the potential for a Missouri casino on the Osage River.
Bally’s is the group’s tentative development partner and would operate the riverboat casino location.
Why would a group of local entrepreneurs want to put in this effort for a giant gaming company? Bally’s agreed to share revenue with Osage River Gaming.
In a letter to the City of Lake Ozark, the group and Bally’s identified the specific planned location for the casino. They point out approximately 20 of the 90-acre Eagles’ Landing Phase 4 property. They also said the remaining ground will become a hotel/convention center, restaurants and retail area. Bally’s operates 15 casinos across ten states, including one in Kansas City.
Meanwhile, the Osage Nation wants to build a tribal casino on the Osage River and claims to have already purchased land. The tribe sees Osage River Gaming as competition, and is trying to block the group’s proposal. They also said any additional casino builds would hurt the tribe’s projected profits. In other words, they don’t think there’s enough room for two casinos on the water.
Missouri currently doesn’t have any tribal casinos.