SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Gaming advocates are rolling the dice on the future, debating whether to allow a casino to be built at the Lake of the Ozarks.

“There are 13 state-regulated casinos in the state of Missouri,” said Timothy Hand, speaking on behalf of Osage River Gaming. “Those 13 organizations generate more tax revenue for the state than the other 160,000 businesses combined with the state of Missouri’s largest revenue source.”

However, some people in Camden County say a casino is a risky bet.

“I think it’ll just take advantage of what we already have down here and sort of parasite off the existing businesses, and we don’t buy the argument,” Joe Roeger said.

Many residents gathered at the Community Christian Church in Camdenton to hear both sides of groups discussing a potential casino in the future.

The first step would be a revision to the Missouri Constitution.

“We are trying to change the Constitution to also allow gaming on the Osage right from Bagnell Dam to where it meets the Missouri River in Jefferson City,” Hand said.

The Camden County Republican Club hosted this discussion, saying the number of people moving to the area has increased in recent years.

“The growth area of Lake of the Ozarks is that there’s a number of people who have moved here. The area is growing economically. It’s growing,” CCRC President Les Larson said. “There’s a lot of things that are affecting it from a real positive way.”

Hand says more people would benefit from a casino.

“A state-regulated casino scaled to the size that we believe fits this demographic market will be about a $200 million construction project. It’ll generate about 700 jobs — 75% that will be year-round — and probably another 350,000 indirect jobs, cab drivers, Uber drivers, those kinds of things,” Hand said.

Roeger thinks it wouldn’t boost the local economy.

“The pie doesn’t get bigger,” Roeger said. “It just gets them divided up and shipped off.”

Osage River Gaming expects the constitutional amendment to be on a ballot for voters in 2024.