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Osage Nation Tribe will bring casino to Lake of the Ozarks

Casino gambling may be coming to Missouri’s Lake of the Ozarks tourist destination.

The Osage Nation Indian Tribe announced that it will invest approximately $60 million to develop a hotel featuring gambling, restaurants and entertainment venues.

“We have established very good relationships with several communities in Missouri and seek to have a presence back in our homeland,” Osage Nation Tribe Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear said in a news release.

The tribe has been looking at investments in Missouri since at least 2017, when it hired former House Speaker Steve Tilley as a lobbyist and contributed $52,000 to the inaugural fund of former Gov. Eric Greitens. At that time, Standing Bear said the tribe was considering locations along Interstate 44 in Cuba, Mo., and in Kimberling City, near Branson, in addition to Lake of the Ozarks.

The release quotes current and former lawmakers from the region, as well as tourism and economic development officials, as welcoming the project. State Sens. Mike Bernskoetter, R-Jefferson City, and Justin Brown, R-Rolla, both said they are happy to see new jobs come to the region.

The Osage Nation called the region that would become Missouri its home from before the establishment of English colonies in the area that became the United States. Most of the tribe’s Missouri lands, including the area south of the Missouri River, were ceded to the United States in a treaty signed in 1808. Tribes have the right to offer gambling that mirrors what the state allows “for any purpose by any person, organization, or entity.”

The Missouri Gaming Commission, which regulates the 13 licensed casinos operating in the state, has not discussed the proposed casino, Chairman Mike Leara said in an interview. “There are still a lot of hurdles that are quite large, I would suspect,” Leara said. “Having legislative support is probably helpful to their cause, but I don’t think it gets them over the line.”