Missouri Casino Proposal Gains Momentum: Over 320,000 Signatures Submitted for Lake of the Ozarks Development Ballot Slot

Home » Missouri Casino Proposal Gains Momentum: Over 320,000 Signatures Submitted for Lake of the Ozarks Development Ballot Slot

Efforts to bring a new casino to the vicinity of the Lake of the Ozarks have taken a significant step forward as backers submitted signatures for a potential ballot slot in Missouri later this year.

The Osage River Gaming & Convention committee announced the submission of over 320,000 signatures, aiming to meet the requisite threshold of 8% of the 2020 gubernatorial vote in six of the state’s eight congressional districts. If approved by voters, the proposed development promises to encompass a comprehensive offering, including a hotel, convention center, restaurants, and other amenities.

State constitution to be amended:

Central to the proposal is an amendment to the Missouri Constitution, permitting the establishment of a casino along the Osage River, stretching from Bagnell Dam to its confluence with the Missouri River. Presently, casinos are exclusively permitted along the Missouri and Mississippi rivers. Additionally, the proposal seeks to override a state law enacted in 2008, which imposed a cap of 13 licensed casinos following an initiative supported by casino operators.

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Backed by Bally’s, the current operator of a casino in Kansas City, and RIS Inc., a prominent regional developer, the casino endeavor responds to a project announced in 2021 by the Osage Nation, the namesake tribe of the river. Proponents of the initiative tout its potential to generate between 700 and 800 employment opportunities, according to the Missouri Independent.

Financial projections accompanying the proposal estimate annual revenue from admission fees at $2.1 million, with corresponding tax revenues of approximately $14.3 million from casino net winnings. Notably, the initiative designates the new gambling tax revenue to fund early childhood literacy programs in public schools.

One of four initiative proposals:

The initiative for the Osage River casino constitutes one of four submitted to the secretary of state’s office ahead of the deadline. The other initiatives encompass proposals regarding abortion rights, legalization of sports wagering, and amendments to labor laws, including a minimum wage increase to $15 per hour by 2026.

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Amidst the flurry of initiative petitions, discussions surrounding procedural reforms have emerged, notably a proposal to raise the threshold for passing constitutional amendments. Advocates argue that the current system facilitates ballot placement too readily, necessitating stricter criteria for approval.

With 174 initiative proposals filed, the fate of the submitted initiatives hinges on signature verification and certification processes. While the deadline for August ballot inclusion looms, logistical challenges may delay final determinations until later in the year, potentially influencing the scheduling of ballot measures.

The initiative to legalize sports wagering in Missouri came after two sports betting bills passed the Missouri House and then were rejected by the Senate in 2022 and 2023. The initiative was put forward by a coalition of six major sports teams including the Kansas City Chiefs and the Kansas City Royals.

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