A Missouri House committee has advanced a proposal to allow casinos near the Lake of the Ozarks if approved by voters in a statewide election.
The state constitution now allows casinos only along the Missouri and Mississippi rivers. The proposed constitutional amendment would add the Osage River downstream from the point where Bagnell Dam forms the Lake of the Ozarks to where it joins with the Missouri River east of Jefferson City.
Of note, when casinos along the Missouri and Mississippi rivers was proposed, and later approved by voters, predictions were voiced that if that proposal is approved, the day would come when there would be casinos at the Lake of the Ozarks. In other words, opening the door to casinos would lead to plans for other casinos in the state.
Missouri voters in 2004 rejected a ballot initiative that would have amended the constitution to allow a casino along the White River at Rockaway Beach at Branson.
The lawmaker who filed the latest proposal, Rep. Rocky Miller, who represents the Lake of the Ozarks area, said he filed the proposal as a pre-emptive move after being approached by a group interested in putting on the ballot a proposal that would open the Lake of the Ozarks to casinos. Miller said he believes a legislative proposal would be better crafted than an initiative petition and would ensure that all casinos go through the current licensing process overseen by the Missouri Gaming Commission.
Rep. Miller believes if the right process is followed, it could be an economic driver for the lake area.
Many of the economic interests at the lake undoubtedly would promote passage of such a proposal. How the voters of Missouri would react is an unknown.
However, this type of proposal will have a long life. If this proposal fails, there will be others in the future. The door has been opened.