Efforts to Establish Casino in Ozarks Gain Increasing Backing in Missouri

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In December 2023, the Miller County Commission in the Ozarks Lake region unanimously backed a casino proposal by Osage River Gaming, aiming for a 2024 statewide referendum to legalize casino gambling along the Osage River. Missouri’s current laws restrict riverboat casinos to the Mississippi and Missouri rivers and cap licenses at 13, all of which are taken. Miller County seeks to expand gaming to the Ozarks, potentially amending the state constitution and increasing the license count.

The City of Lake Ozark’s Board of Aldermen had already endorsed the casino ballot resolution. Osage River Gaming, partnered with Bally’s, plans to construct a casino near the Osage River Bridge, south of Osage National Golf Course. The proposed site is in Miller County, and the Missouri Secretary of State recently approved the ballot language, paving the way for a possible 14th gaming license.

For the referendum to proceed, over 170,000 signatures are needed from Missouri residents. If successful, a simple majority in the November 2024 vote could amend the state constitution to permit the casino.

Meanwhile, the Osage Nation, an Oklahoma tribe historically linked to the Ozarks, is pursuing a federal bid for a tribal casino at Lake of the Ozarks. In June, Lake Ozark’s aldermen, with a tie-breaking vote from Mayor Dennis Newberry, rejected support for the Osage Nation’s casino plans. Local officials argue that a tribal casino, potentially exempt from certain taxes, wouldn’t offer the same regional economic benefits as a commercial property.

Tribal casinos, governed by the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, don’t require local approval but need U.S. Department of the Interior authorization. The Osage Nation could offer Class I and II gaming on federally trusted land and would need a state compact for Class III games, including slot machines and table games. Missouri currently has no tribal casinos.

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