JEFFERSON CITY • A Native American tribe based in Oklahoma has upped the ante in its bid to open a casino in Missouri.
Nine months after writing checks worth over $52,000 to help underwrite Republican Gov. Eric Greitens’ inaugural festivities, the Osage Nation has hired Steve Tilley, a former speaker of the Missouri House, to lobby on its behalf.
According to an Aug. 15 filing with the Missouri Ethics Commission, the tribe hired Tilley and two of his associates at Strategic Capitol Consulting firm, Tom Robbins and Shawn Rigger.
The move comes after Osage Nation chief Geoffrey Standing Bear earlier told the Post-Dispatch that the tribe wrote two checks for the inauguration as a way to establish a good relationship with the governor.
“We thought we would show him respect,” Standing Bear said at the time.
The tribe is looking to build a casino near Cuba, which is on Interstate 44, about 80 miles southwest of St. Louis. The tribe also has looked at property in Kimberling City in southwest Missouri and in the Lake of the Ozarks region in mid-Missouri.
Federal law allows Native American tribes to open casinos in states outside of their reservations under certain circumstances. Any such move would need approval from Greitens.
A spokesman for the governor did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Neither the tribe nor Tilley could be immediately reached Tuesday.
The Osage Nation currently operates seven casinos in Oklahoma, including locations in Tulsa, Ponca City and Pawhuska.
In hiring Tilley, the tribe is getting a lobbyist with experience under the Capitol dome. He was elected to the House in 2004 and was elevated to speaker in 2010. He left office in 2012 overseeing a veto-proof majority of 109 Republicans.
Tilley also represents three other companies that gave money to help pay for the inauguration, including Express Scripts, Uber and Anheuser-Busch.
In addition to Tilley’s experience in the Capitol, Robbins served as general counsel to former state Treasurer Sarah Steelman, who is now the commissioner of the Office of Administration and a key aide to Greitens.
The Missouri Gaming Commission reports that $211 million has been generated for schools so far this year by the state’s 13 existing casinos.
Each of those casinos also registers teams of lobbyists.