Bally’s Ozarks Casino Referendum Likely in Missouri This November

Posted on: May 6, 2024, 08:55h. 

Last updated on: May 8, 2024, 10:27h.

The Lake of the Ozarks casino campaign led by a group of investors involved in an entity called Osage River Gaming & Convention (ORGC) submitted more than 320K signatures from Missouri voters to State Secretary Jay Ashcroft’s office on Sunday. If at least 171,592 signatures are determined legitimate, a statewide referendum would be placed on the November ballot asking voters to authorize casino gaming on the Osage River and a 14th riverboat casino license.

Bally's Ozarks casino Missouri referendum
An aerial view of the Bagnell Dam and Lake Ozark where Bally’s and a group of Missouri investors want to build a riverboat casino and convention hall. The referendum campaign moved forward over the weekend after submitting signatures to the state secretary’s office for validation. (Image: Lake of the Ozarks Convention & Visitor Bureau)

Osage River Gaming has been collecting signatures from voters over the past several months. The campaign ramped up its canvassing in December after the Miller County Commission, which represents the eastern side of the Ozarks Lake, approved the casino initiative through a unanimous resolution.

If approved by the voters, this multi-faceted tourism resort will include a new gaming casino, hotel, convention center, food/beverage options, spa, and other attractions that will provide a year-round economic boost to the region,” ORGC said in a statement.

With a safety net of over 148K signatures, the Lake Ozarks casino push seems to have strong odds of being presented to voters during the November 5 presidential election.

Bally’s Partnered

Osage River Gaming has named Bally’s Corporation as its development partner and would-be casino and hotel operator. The partnership is targeting land below the Bagnell Dam on the south side of US 54 in Lake Ozark.  

ORGC and Bally’s say, if approved, the casino development would create 500 construction jobs and up to 800 permanent resort positions. Bally’s, however, has recently faced several credit downgrades and a bounty of criticism for possibly overextending its financing position by pledging to build a more than $1 billion casino in downtown Chicago.

Bally’s financing capabilities for the Chicago integrated resort, paired with Bally’s seeking to build a multibillion-dollar casino in New York, a smaller one in State College, Pa., and a destination resort in Petersburg, Va., has raised concerns about the company’s ability to secure credit moving forward.

Bally’s Chairman Soo Kim, whose private equity firm Standard General is trying to fully acquire the casino company, said recently on the GGB Podcast that the iconic casino brand does best in regional markets like the Ozarks.

We are a medium-sized gaming company, not the largest. I think we specialize in operating in regional markets,” Kim said. “Destination markets like Las Vegas is a different business and we know we are just baby steps into that business.”

Opposition to the referendum will likely come from the Osage Nation, a tribe in Oklahoma that claims to have historical ties to the region. The federally recognized tribe is in the midst of a federal fight to have land placed into the federal trust near the Lake of the Ozarks for a tribal casino.

ORGC has raised nearly $4 million to promote the Ozarks casino referendum.  

Missouri Gaming Referendums

If Ashcroft’s office validates the needed signatures required for the Ozarks casino and the referendum is held, only a simple majority of the electorate is needed to authorize riverboat slot machines and table games on the Osage, and grant the Missouri Gaming Commission with the power to issue a 14th gaming concession.

The Ozarks casino question could be one of two gaming expansion measures faced by Missouri voters. Last week, another gaming campaign submitted over 340K signatures to initiate a sports betting referendum that would approve both retail and online wagering on professional and college sports.