A proposal to bring a casino to Rockaway Beach is unlikely to come to fruition, according to the mayor of the small resort town in southwest Missouri.
Mayor Don Smith told the Springfield News-Leader that there is “an 80 to 90 percent chance” that the latest efforts are dead in the water, after just weeks ago speaking optimistically about the proposal’s chances.
The mayor of the town located just 10 miles or so northeast of Branson said the backers of the proposal, who went unnamed, concluded that even if voters decided in favor of amending the state’s constitution, any effort would have been subject to a protracted legal battle by the state’s existing casinos.
The state’s constitution currently authorizes only five types of gambling activities in Missouri, including charitable bingo, the state lottery, on-track pari-mutuel betting on horse racing, riverboat gambling (on the Missouri and Mississippi rivers) and charitable raffles and sweepstakes. The state cap for the number of casino licenses it issues is 13, and currently all 13 are in use. Back in September, Rockaway Beach’s mayor told the news agency he believed that both obstacles could be addressed in one ballot question, which would require approval by a majority of statewide voters, and that he was gearing up to launch a second attempt at bringing a casino to Rockaway Beach.
Interest in bringing a casino to the town of about 850 residents has been afloat since Y2K and the multiple proposals have been entertained since then. However, despite the interest, only one effort has made it to the ballot, when in August 2004 the necessary amendment was rejected by 55.9 percent of the state’s voters.
According to the news agency, Smith, who attributes the loss in 2004 to a second amendment that was on the ballot, banning gay marriage, said on Tuesday that the backers of the gambling amendment were confident they could garner the support necessary from voters. But, that they’d reached the conclusion that the success of the amendment would then lead to what would be a long, drawn-out legal fight from the state’s competing casinos.
Smith told the news agency that he’d been looking into the feasibility of bringing a casino to Rockaway Beach on behalf of the investors, one of which he said is a billionaire. He said the group of investors did not have experience in the casino industry but that they own several businesses in the Branson area. Smith said previously that he was in favor of bringing a casino to the town because it would bring with it much needed jobs.
The abandonment of the casino proposal comes on the heels of the Arkansas Supreme Court’s rejection of an unrelated proposal to legalize a casino in Boone County, Arkansas, which is only 23 miles from Rockaway Beach.