An Expert Guide to Gambling in Missouri
Missouri didn't feature any legal forms of gambling until the mid1980s. But despite their late start, Missouri now offers over a dozen riverboat casinos and multiple other forms of gambling.
This includes charitable gambling, daily fantasy sports (DFS), horseracing, poker, and social gambling.
The inclusion of DFS is promising because it's a form of internet gambling. But how favorably does Missouri look upon online casinos, poker rooms, and sports betting sites?
This is one of the biggest questions that we'll answer while covering Missouri's gambling sites and the Missouri gambling laws.
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Online Gambling and Missouri Law
Missouri falls in line with many American states in that they've haven't made an official ruling on internet gambling.
This puts Missouri in a grey area with regard to online gaming. Moreover, lots of offshore operators serve the Show-Me State.
But is it legal for these offshore casinos and poker sites to serve Missourians?
Let's answer this below and discuss whether or not you risk legal action by gambling online in this state.
Is Online Gambling Legal in Missouri?
While Missouri doesn't come right out and ban internet gambling, they have legal language that could make iGaming illegal.
First off, section 572.010 (4) of Missouri's criminal code provides a definition of what constitutes gambling:
"When he stakes or risks something of value upon the outcome of a contest of chance or a future contingent event not under his control or influence, upon an agreement or understanding that he will receive something of value in the event of a certain outcome."
The following excerpt from code 572.030.1 (1) could be used against offshore operators:
"Setting up and operating a gambling device to the extent that more than one hundred dollars of money is gambled upon or by means of the device in any one day, or setting up and operating any slot machine."
Again, the Show-Me State doesn't have direct language that bans internet gambling.
But the above laws are broad and imposing enough that one can assume online gaming is illegal here.
Will I Get Arrested for Gambling Online in Missouri?
Assuming that the laws described above make internet gambling illegal in Missouri, then it's possible that you could be arrested.
The state constitution offers an unforgiving rule on illegal gambling in code 572.020 (1):
"A person commits the crime of gambling if he knowingly engages in gambling."
You definitely don't want to get arrested for being a "professional player," which is a class D felony. Here's the definition of a pro gambler from code 572.010 (9):
"... means a player who engages in gambling for a livelihood or who has derived at least twenty percent of his income in any one year within the past five years from acting solely as a player."
Obviously these are alarming laws. In fact, they might scare you away from trying to be a poker pro or any other type of professional gambler.
But the key to remember is that Missouri has never arrested anybody for the simple act of gambling online.
Even if their constitution leans towards internet gambling being illegal, the precedence over the 2+ decades of iGaming's existence show that you have very little chance of being busted.
Will Missouri Legalize Internet Gambling?
Sooner or later, it's a good bet that every state will legalize online gaming. But odds are that Missouri won't be one of the earliest ones.
For starters, Missiouri hasn't made any serious efforts to regulate the activity. Beyond daily fantasy sports, the Show-Me State has been dormant on iGaming talks.
Another damning point is that former Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster released the following statement about offshore gaming sites:
"Don't be fooled by assurances from internet gambling operators that it is legal to play online in Missouri. It is illegal for out of state gambling operators to offer internet gambling to Missouri residents."
While Koster's statement doesn't reflect the entire State Legislature, it's important because he served up until 2017. And we have yet to hear anything contradicting Koster's statement and offering support for iGaming.
Is it Safe to Play at Offshore Casino Site Onlines?
Missouri may not have the friendliest laws towards online gambling. But this still doesn't keep offshore companies from operating in their state.
You'll have access to a wide range of internet casinos, poker rooms, and sportsbooks in Missouri. Of course, just because these sites are available doesn't mean they're safe.
The biggest problem is that these companies aren't licensed in the US. Instead, they're licensed in offshore jurisdictions that don't adhere to American laws.
Here are a few examples of online licensing jurisdictions that serve the US:
- Antigua & Barbuda
- Costa Rica
- Kahnawake Gaming Commission
The standards for licensing requirements and oversight vary based on the jurisdiction. Here are a couple of examples:
- The Kahnawake Gaming Commission has moderately tough licensing standards and provides some oversight.
- Panama has light licensing requirements and does little to nothing to solve customer disputes with operators.
Ultimately, it's up to the site itself to act responsibly and serve their players well. Going further, you can find safe offshore sites by doing some research.
How do I Pick the Best Online Casinos?
Below are some tips for finding the best iGaming sites:
- Read Several Reviews
- Research Customer Complaints
- Look at Bonus Terms & Conditions
- Check Out the Games
- Try Games Out for Free
- Deposit Methods
The best place to begin your search for a top-quality gaming site is by reading reviews. Exercise your best judgement when checking out reviews to make sure that they're non-biased.
What are other players saying about a particular gaming site? No online casino or poker room will make every player happy. But if you see repeated complaints about the same topic, you know to stay clear.
The amount of money you must wager to cash out your bonus varies from site to site. If this info isn't covered in the reviews you're reading, visit the site directly and see what's required to earn your bonus.
The more variety you have, the more entertained you'll be long term. That said, check the games section at a casino or poker site to see their selection.
You can take things a step further by playing games for free at the site you're interested in. You may need to sign up for an account to play, but the good news is that it's free to do so.
Offshore gaming sites don't always have a lot of deposit options. Visit their cashier/banking section to see what's on tap so you can play.
Breaking down what exactly is or isn't legal in Missouri. Gambling Venues in Missouri
Where to gamble in the state of Missouri. The History of Gaming Laws in Missouri
A brief history of Missouri laws regarding gambling. Missouri Gambling FAQs
A few frequently asked questions from Missouri gamblers. Additional Recources
Still have questions? Look at these links. The Future of Gambling in Missouri
What does the future of gambling look like in Missouri?
More Gambling Laws in Missouri
Missouri voters approved brick-and-mortar casinos through a referendum in 1992. The original legislation had harsh stipulations on casino gambling, which you can see below:
- Only Riverboat casinos are allowed.
- Casino trips limited to 2-hour cruises.
- Players limited to $500 in losses per trip.
- Alcohol can't be offered as a comp.
The 2 hour cruise rule was eliminated just four years later through a 1996 amendment.
But the $500 loss limit remained in effect until 2008. Once the $500 limit was lifted, it helped Missouri's gambling industry flourish.
The Show-Me State has 13 casinos that offer a combined 19,200 gaming machines and 460 table games. You can make bets as low as one cent and as high as $5,000 (thanks to 2008 amendment).
Missouri's largest casino is Kansas City's Ameristar Casino Hotel, which features 2,600 gaming machines and 60 table games. St. Charles Ameristar is almost the exact same size, with just under 2,600 machines and 60 table games.
It's worth adding that Missouri doesn't have any federally recognized tribes, meaning you won't find tribal casinos here.
Charitable Gambling: Legal
Charity gambling is legal in the Show-Me State, but there are stipulations that must be followed. Here are the main standards that charity gaming organizers must meet:
- Only one charity fundraiser per week.
- Be an approved and licensed charity (i.e. charitable, fraternal, religious, service, veteran).
- No more than 62 rounds per charity gambling session.
- Hosting members must have been in organization for over 2 years.
- No member can have a felony on their record.
- All proceeds go to designated cause.
This puts a lot of red tape around the state's charity gambling. But plenty of charities have participated in these licensed fundraisers.
In fact, charity bingo alone has sent over $100 million to Missouri's educational fund since its inception.
Legalized in 1984, the Missouri Lottery offers a variety of games to players aged 18 and older. Games offered by the lottery include:
- Check My Tickets
- Club Keno
- Lucky for Life
- Mega Millions
- Pick 3
- Pick 4
- Show Me Cash
Missouri features over 100 poker tables throughout the state.
Hollywood Casino St. Louis has the largest poker room with 20 tables. Ameristar has the second-biggest poker room with 19 tables.
Pari-mutuel betting was approved in Missouri in 1984. But laws limit bettors to simulcast wagering on certain days.
This makes Missouri one of the most-restrictive states when it comes to pari-mutuel betting.
Social Gambling: Illegal
Another aspect that muddles Missouri's gambling laws is that of social gaming.
Based on definitions we covered in the Online Gambling section, it seems like social gaming would be illegal. After all, we don't see any exemptions made for "social" or "private" gambling in the criminal code.
On the other hand, Missouri's constitution exempts a "player" from several instances. Also, section 572.010 (8) offers the following excerpt:
"A person who gambles at a social game of chance on equal terms with the other participants therein does not otherwise render material assistance to the establishment, conduct or operation thereof by performing, without fee or remuneration, acts directed toward the arrangement or facilitation of the game, such as inviting persons to play, permitting the use of premises therefor and supplying cards or other equipment used therein."
This suggests that social gaming is legal as long as the host isn't profiting from a house edge, rake, or selling food/liquor.
Gambling Venues in Missouri
As covered before, Missouri has 13 riverboat casinos. The largest ones include Ameristar Kansas City, Ameristar St. Charles Casino, and Harrah's Casino.
Just like neighboring Illinois and Iowa, Missouri's casinos must be dockside.
This is limiting because it confines these casinos to the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers. But the good news is that the Show-Me State got rid of hampering rules like a $500-daily-loss limit and 2-hour cruises.
Now,Missouri casinos can benefit much more from this lucrative market. You can see more info on a few of these casinos below.
1. Ameristar Casino Kansas City
3200 North Ameristar Drive, Kansas City, MO 64161
2. Ameristar Casino St. Charles
1 Ameristar Blvd, St Charles, MO 63301
3. Harrah's Kansas City
1 Riverboat Dr, North Kansas City, MO 64116
4. Hollywood Casino St. Louis
777 Casino Center Dr, Maryland Heights, MO 63043
5. Isle Casino
777 N. Main St., Cape Girardeau, MO, 63701
6. Isle of Capri Kansas City
1800 Front St, Kansas City, MO 64120
7. Lady Luck Casino
777 E 3rd St, Caruthersville, MO 63830
8. Mark Twain Casino
104 Pierce St, La Grange, MO 63448
History of Gambling in Missouri
Like other states along the Mississippi River, Missouri has a history of riverboat gambling. Nevertheless, they didn't take any action towards legalized gambling until 1984 - when they approved a lottery.
By 1992, they legalized riverboat casinos, becoming one of the first Midwestern states to offer casino gambling. Since then, the Show-Me State has seen its casino industry become more and more significant over the years.
Unfortunately, Missouri's history doesn't include much discussion on internet gambling. In fact, they've actually taken legal action against iGaming operators.
This makes us wonder how long it will be before they seriously consider regulating the activity.
The good news, though, is that they've made some progress by legalizing daily fantasy sports. Let's look at this gambling milestone and others in Missouri's history below.
Voters approve constitutional change that allows for a lottery and the Missouri State Lottery Commission.
Voters approve constitutional amendment for raffles.
Missouri voters are in favor of constitutional amendment that allows riverboat casinos. The Missouri Gaming Commission is created the same year.
State takes legal action against Pennsylvania's Interactive Gaming & Communications for selling online lottery tickets.
Voters approve Proposition A, which raises gambling tax rate, limits the number of casinos, bans casino loss limits and sees educational fund created out of gambling taxes.
State legalizes and regulates daily fantasy sports.
Missouri begins holding horse races at the state fair.
State begins selling pull-tabs
Casinos successfully push for baccarat, blackjack, poker, roulette, and slot machines.
Missouri takes legal action against California's Marc Meghrouni and Scott Shaver for running an offshore casino and serving Missourians.
Missouri Lottery joins Mega Millions.
US Attorney's Office in Western Missouri indicts online gaming operators.
Missouri doesn't have the clearest laws on internet gambling. We're convinced that they deem the activity legal, but they've never arrested anybody for gambling online.
In any case, this presents a number of questions for those interested in playing online casino games and poker in Missouri. Let's cover some of the most-common questions below.
Governor Jay Nixon helped draft the state's daily fantasy sports legislation. This is the first time that a sitting governor actually helped write a DFS bill.
Some worried that the legislation wouldn't pass the State House. But it did in May 2016, then moved to Nixon's desk for a final signature the following month.
Stipulations of Missouri's DFS bill include:
- Missouri Gaming Commission governs the state's DFS industry.
- Operators pay an annual licensing fee worth $10,000, or 10% of their net revenue if this amount is less.
- Operators must pay a one-time $50,000 fee for the MGC to investigate their business.
- 11.5% tax rate, which is higher than other states.
- No DFS for collegiate sports.
- High-volume players are labeled on their profile photo.
It's great that Missouri has taken the steps to legalize DFS. But we wish that they would take the same initiative with online gambling in general because this could also make the state a lot of money.
Yes, but the operators were living on US soil in both cases.
In 1997, the Missouri Attorney General filed a civil injunction against the Pennsylvania-based Interactive Gaming & Communications. The AG charged that Interactive Gaming was selling online lottery tickets to Missourians.
The owners pleaded guilty to promoting gambling and were ordered to pay a $27,500 fine to Missouri.
In 2000, the state indicted Marc Meghrouni and Scott Shaver, who owned the Curacao-based Paradise Casino.
The California natives pleaded guilty to tax fraud, money laundering, and violating the Wager Wire Act. Shaver and Meghrouni agreed to forfeit a $1 million condo in Orange County and a Lamborghini as part of the settlement.
As you can see, the Show-Me State isn't afraid to prosecute online gambling sites. But in both cases, these companies were based in America.
That said, we don't see them pursuing any offshore sites where the owners live outside the US.
Missouri has a broad definition of gambling devices that covers lots of ground. Here's how code 572.010 (5) describes a gambling device:
"...means any device, machine, paraphernalia or equipment that is used or usable in the playing phases of any gambling activity, whether that activity consists of gambling between persons or gambling by a person with a machine."
The first part of this can cover a smartphone, tablet, or computer. And if Missouri really wanted to make a case out of a smartphone gambler, they could through section 572.010 (5).
But there's almost no chance of this happening.
As discussed before, Missouri has never taken legal action against an online gambler. And until they legalize the activity, we don't see this happening in the near future.
So far, the only states that have legalized and regulated internet gambling include Delaware, Nevada, and New Jersey.
Nevada and New Jersey legalized the activity because they're both big casino destinations that wanted to be at the iGaming forefront. Delaware is also a fairly large gaming destination for its size (945.6k residents), given that they have 3 racinos.
Missouri is located near states that have legalized DFS, so it makes sense that they've done the same. But Illinois and Iowa are the only neighbors that have seriously considered online gambling legislation - but neither have legalized the activity.
With no local peers regulating iGaming and no serious pushes in Missouri, we don't see them legalizing internet gambling for a long time.
Here's a look at more resources that you can use to learn about Missouri's gambling laws, as well as other topics pertaining to the matter.
The MGC enforces gambling laws and oversees the state's gaming industry. Their website offers FAQs and laws on social and charitable gaming.
This page shows all of the updates to Missouri's gambling codes. You'll find a helpful search tool here that allows you to look up different topics.
The Missouri Lottery Commission handles all 9 lottery games for the state and makes payouts to winners.
The Future & Your Views
Missouri isn't anywhere close to legalizing and regulating online gambling. In fact, their laws and previous legal actions against operators suggest that they frown upon the activity.
But the good news is that they don't seem to care about their residents playing online casino games and poker. We can't find one arrest record for an online gambler in the state.
Missouri is enthused about daily fantasy sports, becoming the sixth state to legalize the activity in 2016.
We wish they'd share the same enthusiasm about online gambling as a whole, but at least they've legalized one form of iGaming.
Unfortunately, it'll be years before Missouri regulates internet gambling. No serious discussions have taken place on the matter, and no neighboring states have legalized the activity.
Maybe if Illinois or Iowa regulates iGaming, the dominoes will start to fall into place in the Midwest. But until then, Missouri remains a grey area filled with offshore gaming sites.