Voters of Missouri will decide if they want to legalize riverboat casinos on the Osage River. Currently, riverboat gambling operations are only allowed on the Missouri and Mississippi rivers, but that could be changing soon if a Missouri House bill to change the state’s constitution passes.
A bill was proposed in late January by state representative Rocky Miller (R-Lake Ozark), who offered an amended version of the House Joint Resolution Bill 87. This version removed the Lake of the Ozarks from the resolution.
While supporting the bill, Miller seemed a bit lackluster in his support for the legislation. “Why in the world would I do this? I didn’t come up here to do this,” he explained. “I literally don’t know if I really care about this.”
He pointed out that the legislation does not actually change or add gaming on the Osage River, but gives voters the opportunity to weigh in on the subject. “If we don’t do this, we’re going to have an initiative petition — we’re probably going to have one anyway — but in this case, we have the ability to actually move on it,” he stated. “If we don’t have this piece in place — if we don’t have the Osage River added to this change in the Constitution, of course we know we can’t change the Constitution.”
What appears to be driving the legislation is a realization that there is no reason why gambling should not be legalized on the Osage River. Miller explained that “When the first riverboat gambling came out in the 90s, I thought ‘Well gosh, why isn’t the Osage River part of the Missouri and Mississippi riverboat gaming license?’ I have no idea why it wasn’t, but I thought we really should be.”
Should the bill pass, it would be then voted upon as a referendum by Missouri residents in November. If passed, it is expected that it would add $55 million dollars in tax revenue to the state each year and add over 700 new jobs.
Missouri currently only allows for 13 licenses to be granted to run a riverboat casino. If voters approve the constitution change, it will mean that one of the current license holders will likely lose their license, or will have to move their operation to the Osage River.
Miller added that if the bill passes, it will be years before similar legislation would be voted upon to legalize gambling in the Lake of the Ozarks.