A delegation of Lake-area business owners, concerned citizens and government officials visited the Capitol Building in Jefferson City April 26 to voice support of a bill that seeks to amend the Missouri State Constitution to include the Osage River as a legally permissible location for gaming,
Legal gaming is already allowed within the state on the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers.
In addition, the resolution adds an additional – 14th – gaming license designated for the Osage River. Currently, Missouri Gaming licenses are capped at 13 and all are currently in use.
The bill, HJR-127, is sponsored by Rep. Ron Hicks. HJR-127 was supposed to be introduced to the Emerging Issues Committee, but because of the timing of the legislative cycle, the House hearing is ceremonial in that HJR-127 would not actually be introduced and voted on until the next legislative session in 2023.
Prior to the hearing, the group met with the following senior state legislators:
Sen. Mike Bernskoetter (R-Jefferson City)
Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe (R)
Majority Leader Dean Plocher (R-St. Louis)
Sen. Justin Brown (R-Rolla)
Speaker Pro Tem John Weimann (R-O’Fallon)
Rep. Tracy McCreary (D-St. Louis)
Rep. Ron Hicks (R-Weldon Springs)
Each legislator voiced support for HJR-127 in principle based on its potential economic impact to the Lake economy. The group of local supporters outlined the magnitude of the effort in creating approximately 700 jobs (mostly local) during the construction phase of the project and at least that many permanent jobs once operations commence. A state-regulated casino would generate at least $100 million in net new revenue to the Lake economy and more than $25 million in state and local tax revenue. Once completed, a state-regulated casino on the Osage River would be Lake Ozark and Miller County’s largest tax revenue source. The facility would likely be the Lake area’s second largest employer behind Lake Regional Health system.
Not unexpectedly, much of the conversation with legislators centered around the recent announcement of the Osage Nation's plan to also build a casino facility at the Lake.
The Osage Nation has closed on at least one parcel of property to be redeveloped for this purpose. A spokesman for the group visiting the capitol said that although several of the legislators had previously voiced support of the Osage Nation project, that support has waned as the details have emerged about the potential impact an Indian casino will have on existing small businesses.
The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, signed by President Ronald Reagan, is a 1988 United States federal law that establishes the jurisdictional framework that governs Indian Gaming. The actual process to transfer state land to an Indian Tribe as sovereign is complicated and beyond the scope of this article. The Osage Nation only faces one hurdle: the signature of the sitting governor.