A Native American tribe in Oklahoma wants to bring gambling off riverboats in Missouri by building the state’s first land-based casino.

Oklahoma tribe Osage Nation casino

Osage Nation Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear wants to take his Oklahoma tribe to Missouri and snag a monopoly on land-based gambling. (Image: Osage Nation)

In order to increase its odds of receiving approval, the Osage Nation has hired former Missouri House Speaker Steve Tilley (R) to lobby on the group’s behalf in Jefferson City, the state capital. 

Revealed through disclosures filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission, the Osage Nation says it has employed Tilley and two of his associates working at the Strategic Capitol Consulting Firm.

The tribe has made no secret of its wishes to build a gambling venue in the neighboring state, and is doing plenty to find favor among Missouri’s most powerful leaders. The Osage tribe paid $52,000 to help cover costs associated with Missouri Governor Eric Greitens’ (R) inauguration in January.

Tilley almost served five two-year terms in the Missouri House. Amid a divorce from his wife of 18 years, he resigned in 2012 five months before his term was set to expire. He established his lobbying firm soon after.

Missouri is home to 13 commercial riverboat casinos, all of which are stationary facilities with barges.  

Why Missouri?

An Oklahoma tribe looking to build in Missouri doesn’t seem to initially make sense. But then again, Kansas City isn’t in Kansas but Missouri. So maybe it does.

The reason Osage Nation wants to enter Missouri is simple: it would have a monopoly on land-based gambling. Missouri is one of just 10 states that isn’t home to a state or federally recognized tribe. The Osage people, however, trace their roots to southwestern parts of Missouri.

Under the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), tribes can request that the US Department of the Interior (DOI) take recently acquired lands into trust. The government agency requires that the tribe demonstrate the new land consolidates or enhances tribal lands, and prove that the Native American community has historical ties to the region.

According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Osages are looking at land in Cuba (another oddly named city in Missouri). Cuba is about 80 miles southwest of St. Louis.

Missouri is also home to the cities of Florida, the birthplace of Mark Twain, as well as Maryland Heights, Mexico, and Nevada.

Millions at Stake

Riverboat casinos are often much smaller facilities compared to land-based resorts. Should Governor Greitens approve of the tribe’s plans and the DOI take the land into trust, nothing would be standing in the Osage Nation’s way of building a resort.

Class I and II gaming would be immediately authorized under federal law, but to incorporate Class III gaming (slots and table games), the tribe would need to reach a gaming compact with the state.

Should all those hurdles be cleared, Missouri’s first Native American casino could stand to become the tribe’s breadwinner.  

Missouri has a relatively low effective commercial gambling tax rate at 26.1 percent, and ranked #8 in consumer spending on casinos in 2015. Adjusted gross receipts are on pace to hit almost $2 billion this year.