Osage Casinos CEO authorized to survey for land purchases in Missouri

A hint of a conversation about possible lands to be purchased in Missouri for the purposes of gaming was mentioned in an Osage Nation Gaming Commission meeting on Jan. 13.

Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear and Osage Casinos CEO Byron Bighorse gave an update to the commission. Standing Bear said the Gaming Enterprise Board has authorized Bighorse and attorneys to purchase land in an undisclosed location in Missouri. He said there were seven sites that would be considered.

Bighorse is due to report back to the gaming board at their February meeting.

When asked about the possible land purchase, Bighorse said, “Given the sensitive nature of this project, I can’t give any specific details. As soon as I can procure our parcel of land, I can begin to answer some of those questions.”

In 2018, Standing Bear and gaming officials were looking at sites near the city of Cuba, Missouri, along Interstate 44, which is about 80 miles southwest of St. Louis.

Obtaining a gaming establishment in Missouri could be a 2-to-5-year process. In part because land purchased for gaming purposes must go through the lengthy fee-to-trust process, which could take more than two years. There are also federal environmental and jurisdictional issues to address. However, with President Joe Biden’s nomination of Deb Haaland, the first-ever Native American to be seated as the Secretary of Interior, she would be overseeing fee-to-trust applications. No one yet knows how her presence in the office could change the timing of such applications. Haaland has yet to be confirmed for the position.

There is also the issue of a gaming compact with the state of Missouri. If the land is put into trust the Nation will have to negotiate the compact with the Missouri governor. Then, that compact has to pass through the Missouri legislature, be signed by the governor and then the Secretary of the Interior.

To date, Missouri has 13 existing casinos.