The prospects of a casino on the Osage River have seemed a little dimmed over the last year, but there is still hope for it.
The group of investors responsible for the development of the casino, Osage River Gaming, has been on hold since the coronavirus pandemic outbreak forced it to change its plans at the time when the Missouri Legislature ceased its sessions in the spring of 2020. The lake-area business and financial consultant Tim Hand, who currently heads the investors’ group, has been hoping to see a gaming boat operational there.
The term of the legislative supporter of the group, former Representative Rocky Miller, ended in 2020 at the last legislative session and so far no one has been appointed as a legislation sponsor. The legislative influence of the group’s former supporter in Miller County, where the riverboat casino would be located, as well as his life-long residency in Miller County and knowledge of the community, were supposed to help him win support for the casino not only in Jefferson City but in the entire area.
For the time being, Representative Lisa Thomas, who took over the vacant position of Mr. Miller, seems to not be interested in backing the issue.
Limit for Riverboat Casino Operating Licenses in Missouri Set at 13
So far, Osage River Gaming has identified a number of current House members who may be willing to sponsor a piece of legislation pushing for the proposed riverboat casino.
The investors’ group intended to place a constitutional amendment on a state-wide ballot, with the initiative having received the approval of two committees involved in the process.
Another option also existed for Osage River Gaming to get the casino issue placed on a statewide ballot, the so-called Initiative Petition. Unfortunately, this process is not an easy one in the state of Missouri. All of the signatures to back the proposal must be “wet”. In addition, they need to be collected in person, which, considering the situation with the coronavirus pandemic and social distancing restrictions, could be difficult. Tim Hand explained that Osage River Gaming could revisit the Initiative Petition option when the situation with the global Covid-19 crisis gets back to normal or the group strikes out in the legislative.
For the time being, Missouri gambling laws only allow riverboat gambling along the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers. The number of riverboat casino licenses has been set at 13 with Proposition A that got local voters’ approval in 2008. Also, all holders of such operating licenses were active before the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.
Then, the House Joint Resolution (HJR87) of Representative Miller, which sought to allow the General Assembly to permit lotteries, games of chance and gift enterprises to be conducted on floating facilities and excursion gambling boats, was filed. The proposed piece of legislation did not ask for an expansion of the riverboat casino licenses beyond the permitted number but would have allowed the Osage River to be marked as an authorized waterway. This means that if a license became available, a casino venue could be considered to be added there.