A three-layered discussion is going on at the Missouri General Assembly pertaining to a casino in the Lake of the Ozarks. Each side was recently given time to make its case at a Senate Emerging Issues Committee hearing. One faction wants a commercial casino on the Osage River, another wants one tribal casino, while a third is against a casino in the area whatsoever.
The Osage Nation, which wants to build a $60 million tribal casino and hotel resort on 28 acres of land in Miller County, feels there are several misconceptions concerning their resort plans. They want to set the record straight.
Missouri hears arguments for & against casinos in Ozarks
Current law allows for 13 riverboat casinos in Missouri. Each must be located on either the Missouri or Mississippi river. There are currently no tribal casinos in The Show Me State.
Commercial casino proposal
Going back to the three sides, the one proposed by Missouri lawmakers to allow for a 14th riverboat casino along the Osage River in the Ozarks is contained in Senate Joint Resolution 14. It is a direct response to the Osage Nation’s desire to build its resort.
Missouri state Sen. Justin Brown sponsors SJR 14. At the Senate hearing, he said the local community of Lake Ozark, as well as the state, would benefit more if a commercial casino was there to compete with the tribal one.
“This is stemming from the Osage Indian Nation building a casino at Lake of the Ozarks. The problem is … we want to be able to at least level the playing field, where we can have a casino there that would be decided by the people and make sure there is not any unfair competition within the community . . . I think it would be great for the area.”
Tribal casino only
A second side is that of the Osage Nation. Naturally, the side does not want any competition. Chief Executive Officer of Osage Casinos Kimberly Pearson recently wrote an opinion piece in the Missouri Times outlining its plans.
“Our plan to bring a world-class entertainment district to the Lake of the Ozarks is moving forward as planned, and once completed, will see the Osage casino make a $60 million investment in the community. This investment we are making in our ancestral homeland will bring new jobs, tourism and revenue to the area.”
The third side of this argument is formed by a group of Lake Ozark residents who do not want any casino in the Ozarks. Tim Faber of the Missouri Baptist Convention also spoke before the Senate committee.
Faber stated simply:
“What about the option of, ‘no casino at the Lake?’”
Osage Nation addresses ‘misconceptions’ in opinion piece
In her opinion piece, Pearson wrote about several different misconceptions and misrepresentations the tribe thought came out at the hearing. Her main goal of the opinion article was to push back on what she claimed were “racist and false claims at a hearing regarding casino development for the Lake of the Ozark.”
According to Pearson, there was one individual who displayed “particularly hateful rhetoric.” The person said the people living in Missouri do not want Native Americans owning businesses in the Ozarks. Pearson remarked:
“As the CEO of Osage Casinos, I am here to set the record straight about our plans to return to our ancestral homeland, to help grow the Lake area economy, and to put an end to particularly hateful rhetoric displayed by one individual at the recent hearing, who suggested Native Americans were not the type of business owners Missourians want.”
Lake of the Ozark casino project will create jobs
In the piece, Pearson outlined several ways the Osage Nation would invest in the community. First, the construction project would provide jobs. Plans for this already-purchased Ozarks land call for a casino with a sports bar and restaurants, a convention center and a hotel.
Pearson also says 90% of its employees at casinos run by the Osage Nation are not members of the tribe. That means the resort would create new employment opportunities for members of the Lake Ozark area. Additionally, the employees pay the same taxes to state and federal entities that all other employees pay.
“Our employees are paid above market rates, pay state and federal income taxes and pay payroll taxes, in addition to sales taxes.”
Tribe partners with community services
The Osage Nation is also in partnership with local law enforcement agencies, fire departments, emergency responders, utilities and other service providers, Pearson wrote.
She said that while the Osage Nation does not pay typical taxes to support these public entities, it does compensate them for services rendered at or around the casino.
Osage Nation donates to community organizations
The Osage Nation also plans to make humanitarian contributions in the Ozarks — much like they do in all other communities where Osa casinos are located. She wrote that the Osage Nation has already given donations to the Citizens Against Domestic Violence, Community Foundation of the Lake, Lake Area Youth Robotics, Lake Ozark Fire Protection District, Lake Ozark Police Department, Miller County Sheriff’s Office and the Osage Football League.
The tribe plans to continue its philanthropic ways, she wrote.
“Why is the Osage Nation making a major economic development project in Missouri? It is because our tribe is deeply connected to Missouri. Missouri is our ancestral homeland, where the Osage once flourished. Our history remains deeply rooted in this Missouri area and continues today through cultural education and preservation initiatives.
“As CEO of Osage Casinos, I can assure you we are going to do exactly what we say we are going to do.”