Osage Nation Looks to Advance Missouri Casino Plans

Osage Nation Casino Hotel Lake Of Ozarks

The “Show Me” State could be moving one step closer to adding a new casino. For months, the Osage Tribe has been working toward building a casino in Lake Ozark. The Tribe already has a site picked out. Before construction on the casino can move forward, the current buildings must be removed. The Osage Tribe also needs approval from the US Department of Interior to rezone the land.

At the beginning of the year, the Osage Tribe announced it would be taking bids from demolition contractors in Missouri. The building site for the new casino, 3501 Bagnell Dam Blvd., is currently the home of a vacant hotel. The tribe will be accepting bids until next Tuesday.

Tribal leaders are working on multiple fronts at once. Missouri laws limit the number of casinos in the state to 13. To work around the issue, the Osage Tribe would need to be approved for a Class II gaming license under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. Tribal leaders have already submitted an application to the US DOI. The tribe is also building new casinos in Oklahoma.

Approval from the DOI can take over a year in some cases. Unfortunately, the Osage Tribe can do little without the license. Until then, the plans for the $60 million hotel and casino complex will largely be on hold. If approved, the Osage Casino will be the first casino in the Ozarks.

Demolition Could Start Soon

The Osage Nation announced last October that it planned to expand into Miller County in Missouri. Currently, there are seven Osage Casinos in neighboring Oklahoma. At the time of the announcement, the Osage Nation did not identify a building site.

Soon after the plans for a new casino were announced, the Osage Nation acquired the now vacant Quality Inn located on Bagnell Dam Blvd. The motel and its improvements would need to be demolished before the new casino and hotel are built. Local demolition contractors have been bidding on the job since the end of January.

Tribal leaders will be accepting bids on the demolition job until February 15th. Once the Osage Nation chooses a contractor, demolition on the existing structures can begin. Clearing the way for the future casino and hotel is one of the only steps the Tribe can do while it waits for DOI approval.

The Ozark casino is not the only construction project the Osage Nation has. In Oklahoma, two Osage Casinos are currently under construction. In Pawhuska, the Osage Tribe’s casino hotel project will cover 60 acres. In nearby Bartlesville, the Osage Nation is working on a casino project that covers 125 acres. Construction on the Pawhuska and Bartlesville casinos is expected to be finished later this year.

Details of Proposed Osage Casino in Missouri

The proposed hotel and casino project in Missouri will be much smaller than the projects in Oklahoma. In Oklahoma, the casino projects cover 60 and 125 acres. The proposed project in Missouri would only cover 28 acres. Its price tag is also smaller. Tribal leaders are investing nearly $100 million in their two new Oklahoma casinos. The Ozark Casino project is projected to cost $60 million.

Under the current plans, the casino and hotel would be one of the biggest investments in the region in recent years. The hotel complex would of course include a casino floor. It would also feature an entertainment center and restaurants.

There has been some resistance from community members to the casino. However, the economic upsides of a new casino largely drown out the detractors. Miller County depends on money from tourists. A new casino would help attract business to the region. It would also provide new employment opportunities for people in the community.

If approved by the DOI, the Osage Casino would be the first casino in the Ozarks. Attempts by other groups to bring casinos to the Ozarks have fallen flat. The Osage River Gaming investment group has been trying to bring a casino to the area for years but has been unsuccessful.

Full Approval is Likely Years Away

There are currently 13 casinos operating in Missouri. Based on the current laws in the “Show Me” State, no new casinos can be licensed. While this limitation has prevented organizations such as Osage River Gaming from building new casinos, the Osage Nation can work around it. Receiving approval from the DOI would make the Osage Tribe exempt from Missouri casino laws.

The Osage Nation has applied to be licensed for a Class II gaming casino near Lake Ozark. If approved, the proposed construction site would be transferred into federal trust. Becoming a federally approved Indian casino would prevent the Osage Nation from needing a Missouri gaming license to operate.

DOI approval would also allow the Osage Casino to become the only Missouri casino not located on the Missouri or Mississippi rivers. Missouri gaming laws require casinos to be confined to riverboat gaming operations. A casino at Lake Ozark would truly be on-of-a-kind.

Unfortunately, approval from the DOI could take one to two years. In that time, the DOI will be verifying that the proposed Osage Casino complies with the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. Historically, the Osage Nation had a presence in the land now designated as Missouri. Estimates put the tribal population in the “Show-Me” State as high as 200,000.

Conclusion

A Native American tribe is looking to move one step closer to circumventing Missouri’s restrictive casino laws. The Osage Nation has been accepting applications for demolition contractors since last month. By this time next week, Tribal leaders will be able to pick the contractor of their choice. The chosen applicant will be tasked with tearing down the motel and other structures currently located at 3501 Bagnell Dam Blvd.

Once the existing structures are out of the way, the Osage Nation will move to the next step of building its Ozark Casino. The tribe is waiting on approval from the Department of Interior for a Class II gaming casino. If the DOI rezones the area and transfers it to federal trust, the Osage Nation would not be subject to Missouri gaming laws.

Approval from the DOI could take years to be finalized. However, the Midwest tribe has several other projects to keep it busy. The Osage Nation is building two new casino hotels in neighboring Oklahoma. Currently, Tribal leaders oversee seven casinos in the Sooner State. A casino in Lake Ozark would be the Osage Nation’s first in Missouri.