Osage Nation Earmarks Land for Lake Ozark Casino

Posted on: February 8, 2022, 08:05h. 

Last updated on: February 8, 2022, 10:56h.

The Osage Nation appears to have found a site for its proposed casino in Lake Ozark, Mo. According to Lake News Online. 

Osage Lake Casino
The Osage Nation’s homeland once encompassed almost all of modern-day Missouri, including the Lake of the Ozarks, pictured. (Image: World Atlas)

The tribe is seeking a request for proposals to demolish a vacant motel on the intersection of Osage Beach Parkway and Bagnell Dam Boulevard in Miller County. A public notice appeared to that effect in The Eldon Advertiser last month.

In October, the Nation announced its intention to build the popular tourist region’s first casino but declined to say where. It said it would commit around $60 million towards the project, which is described as a “new entertainment district.”

The casino would be “one of the most substantial economic development initiatives for the region in years,” the Nation said in a press release.

The Nation is based in Oklahoma, where it owns and operates seven casinos. However, its historical lands once encompassed most of what is now Missouri.

No Tribal Casinos in Missouri

Missouri only permits riverboat casinos on the Missouri or Mississippi rivers, or within 1,000 feet of their shorelines. The Lake of the Ozarks is on the Osage River. But the Nation will apply to the federal government to have the land for the proposed casino taken into trust.

This process partially removes the land from the jurisdiction of the state, converting it into tribal land. In turn, this makes casino gaming legally possible under the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. However, the procedure can take years to play out.

A federally approved tribal gaming facility does not need a state license and does not pay local taxes, provided similar gaming is already approved in the state. But the tribe would need to draw up a compact with Missouri if it wanted to offer Class III casino gaming, and this would include a revenue-share agreement.

There are currently no Native American reservations in Missouri and no tribal casinos.

Sharks Circling Lake

But the Osage Nation isn’t alone in thinking a Lake of the Ozarks casino is a bright idea. A group of Lake area investors have formed a committee called Osage River Gaming (ORG), which is dedicated to bringing commercial gaming to the area.

ORG helped spearhead legislation, introduced in 2019 by State Rep. Rocky Miller (R-Lake), that would have changed the state constitution to allow gaming along the Osage River. The bill was pulled when the pandemic struck, along with all non-essential legislation, and Miller’s tenure ended in 2020.

If ORG fails to resurrect the bill, it plans to organize a signature-gathering campaign to place the measure directly on the ballot.

ORG claims that a commercial casino would generate more money for the local area than a tribal casino.