The Osage Nation tribe hopes to come home to Missouri.
They have proposed a 28-acre hotel complex with a casino, entertainment venues, and restaurants at the Lake of the Ozarks in Miller County. They purchased the land this past June.
The new site would be a $60 million investment in the area’s economy.
“We have established very good relationships with several communities in Missouri and seek to have a presence back in our homeland”— Osage Nation Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear
But the approval process could go on for some time, according to the Missouri Times. Possibly up to 10 years in the opinion of Mike Leara, chair of the Missouri Gaming Commission (MGC).
Missouri currently has 13 state-licensed casinos and continues to consider expanding with new forms of gambling.
Different and slower process for tribal casinos
Unlike licensed commercial casinos via the MGC, tribal casinos come under the jurisdiction of federal law. In 1988, Congress passed the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), which delineated the approval process for tribal casinos not located on reservations.
The Missouri land Osage Nation owns is not yet in trust status. An off-reservation casino requires filing a land-into-trust application with the Dept. of the Interior.
That requirement could take “about 12 months,” according to Osage Casino’s CEO Byron Bighorse.
As per IGRA regulations, the tribe has to show that their plan “is in the best interest of the Indian tribe and its members”.
It must also prove its casino will not be detrimental to the “community’s structure” and “character.” Along with having an environmental assessment.
Approval from the community matters as the tribe needs a gaming compact with the state. They must also have approval by Gov. Mike Parson or his successor, depending on how long the process takes.
The compact will branch out law enforcement responsibilities on the property and establish taxation of “comparable amounts”.
As “tribes have the right to offer gambling that mirrors what the state allows for any purpose by any person, organization, or entity,” if the state refuses to negotiate such a compact or does so only in bad faith, the tribe can sue in federal court.
Leara has said that six out of 17 requests for similar exceptions as that being applied for by the Osage Nation have been denied.
Local officials believe in a positive impact
Sen. Justin Brown has called the proposed plan “a tremendous opportunity” and he looks forward to welcoming “the [Osage] Nation home.”
State Sen. Mike Bernskoetter told the Missouri Times that he hopes it would have a “positive impact” on the area. Bernskoetter said:
“People are always concerned about the negative impacts of gambling and that sort of thing, but I would imagine it would just be another recreational activity that people could enjoy at the Lake if they chose to.”
Both men welcome the idea of new area jobs, as does former state Rep. Rocky Miller.
In the Missouri Independent, Miller says “the area has always been about growth”. His family history in the region goes back over 150 years.
Giving back and philanthropic contributions
The Osage Nation already operates seven Oklahoma casinos. As it’s done with these establishments, the tribe plans to give back to the communities around this proposed casino. According to a press release put out by the Nation:
“Through philanthropic contributions to local schools, law enforcement and other first responders, local charities and community improvement projects. The Osage Nation is also committed to leveraging local vendors and local businesses whenever possible to provide products and services for the facilities.”
According to Standing Bear, pre-construction work is expected to triple the land’s value. Whatever the outcome, the land is an asset for the tribe.