Missouri Casino Expansion via Lake of the Ozark Bill Dies – Initiative Petition to bypass the Legislators Seems Likely

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the many attempts at legalizing casinos near Osage Beach at the Lake of the Ozarks.  The Missouri constitution very clearly limits casino gambling to the Missouri and Mississippi rivers, but attempts have been made for over a decade to expand gambling to that part of the state.  New attempts have been made, but those legislative efforts appear to have come to an end, leaving an initiative petition as the new driving effort.  A local new source reports:

Hopes for a casino at the Lake of the Ozarks have been dealt a serious blow. Missouri House Joint Resolution 87, which could have paved the way for a possible gambling boat on the Osage River below Bagnell Dam, has succumbed to the woes of COVID-19.

“It’s dead,” HJR 87 sponsor and proponent Rep. Rocky Miller said this week. “I would have liked for a possible casino to go through the existing proven structure, but I am fairly certain a Ballot Initiative Petition process will begin now.”

In this scenario, a ballot initiative would need to get the required number of signatures to be placed on the ballot, and then the ballot petition would need to win at the polls.  The last ballot initiative that passed was reportedly due, in large part, to the cap of 13 casinos in the state.  Its unclear if there is actual support to amend the constitution once again to allow 14, 15 or even 16 casinos in Missouri.  An online source explains:

Osage River Gambling had already been working on changing Missouri law to bring a casino (or three) to Lake of the Ozarks, via a Citizen’s Initiative Petition (CIP). A CIP would bypass the Missouri legislature and put a constitutional amendment straight to the voters… The CIP would also seek to add three new casino licenses to the current state maximum, bringing it up to 16.

It’s a plan built for high-rollers: the CIP will cost $1 million, the group expects. But they already have the money set aside. They have also polled the ballot language. “It passed easy: 67 percent,” Hand said. That was with the addition of the Osage River and no new licenses, though; investors expect a CIP’s passage to become tougher with the addition of new licenses. Gaming companies with existing Missouri casinos would oppose it.

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