Currently, the Lake of the Ozarks region of Missouri has zero casinos. If things work out just the right way, that number could expand to two. Whether or not that happens partially depends on the results of a Missouri casino amendment proposal.
A legislator in the state has revived a proposal that could authorize a commercial casino in the Lake of the Ozarks area. If successful, it could pose a serious threat to tribal gaming interests in the exact same area.
Missouri casino amendment proposal gets new life
Missouri Rep. Jeff Knight has pre-filed HJR 23 for the legislative session that begins next month. Technically, it’s an amendment of an existing amendment in Missouri’s constitution. It proposes opening up a new part of the state to a commercial casino.
That area is a “portion of the Osage River from the Missouri River to the Bagnell Dam.” That represents a 25-mile stretch of the river. The city with the greatest population along that stretch is Osage Beach.
To become enshrined in the Missouri constitution, the resolution first needs approval by a simple majority of both chambers of the legislature. Then, Missouri citizens must also approve it by at least a 50% plus 1 vote margin.
That vote could come in November 2024 unless Gov. Mike Parson calls for a special election sooner. This proposal is a reprise of a similar resolution in the last legislative session. For that reason, it faces the same obstacle; tribal gaming interests in the immediate area.
Could tribal opposition stymie this resolution?
In February, Missouri Rep. Ron Hicks submitted an almost identical proposal. That resolution failed to gain the necessary support to reach voters this fall, however. Whether this second attempt from Rep. Knight will bear any further success is uncertain.
Part of that uncertainty comes from a proposal for a tribal casino in the same area. The Osage Nation has acquired a tract of land where it wants to place its own gambling facility. That plot is currently the site of the former Quality Inn Hotel.
In October 2021, the Osage Nation submitted a plan for Class II Gaming at the facility. Class II Gaming essentially covers games like bingo and slots while excluding table games. The most important factor to note about the Class II application is that it does not require the Osage Nation to negotiate a compact with Missouri to initiate.
Should the US Dept. of the Interior grant approval, the Osage Nation could immediately begin offering gambling in its facility regardless of Missouri legislators’ sentiments. A full-fledged commercial casino in the area – with games like blackjack and craps – might pose a serious threat to the Osage Nation’s facility, however.
For that reason, lobbyists for the Osage Nation might be active in Jefferson City in 2023, seeking the defeat of HJR 23. In theory, though, it’s possible that both facilities could co-exist. That would represent a drastic change for the immediate area in terms of gambling availability.