Missouri is one of the more restrictive states when it comes to gambling. The state outlaws all forms of gambling apart from a few, very specific forms of wagering. The state legalized riverboat gambling in 1992 and now has about a dozen few full-fledged casinos, but the pickings are slim beyond that. All gaming inside the state is regulated by the Missouri Gaming Commission.
The gambling laws of Missouri outline exactly what is legal and ban everything else by omission. This includes even social gambling games because they are not considered an authorized form of gaming in the state. Article 13 of Section 572.010 defines unlawful gambling as anything “not specifically authorized by law.”
Online gambling and poker are not on the state’s radar at this time. There have been zero efforts to bring the industry to Missouri and we know of no upcoming moves to legalize any form of online betting apart from what is already legal in the state (fantasy sports and games of skill).
Legal Betting Sites in MO
Games of Skill:
Fantasy sports and skill games are the two forms of online betting that are legal in Missouri because they aren’t classified as gambling under the law. Therefore, the law linked-to above that defines gambling does not apply to these forms of betting.
Both activities are considered contests of skill and MO does not outlaw real money wagers on such contests. Lawmakers probably never imagined online fantasy betting would become such a big deal one day, but it’s here now and there are zero state laws that criminalize the industry.
Something I like to explain to people is that you can tell a form of betting is legal in the US if its headquarters are located on US soil. Any time you see a betting site operating out of Costa Rica or the Isle of Man, there’s a pretty good chance it does so because it doesn’t have the proper authorization to offer its services to US citizens.
FanDuel, DraftKings and WorldWinner are all US-based companies with a physical presence here in the states. They advertise openly, their founders walk around in view of the public and they all retain lawyers to ensure they comply with the laws of each state in the US.
Fantasy Sports Law
Up until 2016, daily fantasy sports sites operated openly in Missouri without any trouble from state authorities. The activity was basically considered de-facto legal simply because it was not illegal. It’s unclear if that was a strictly correct interpretation of the law, but that’s how things worked in practice for the industry prior to 2016. The state legislature decided to take up the issue in 2016 and drafted HB 1941 to expressly authorize and regulate daily fantasy sports.
This bill resembles other daily fantasy bills passed across the nation as far as regulations go. Licensed fantasy sites in Missouri are now required to hold customer funds in a separate account segregated from operational funds, sites must offer self-exclusion programs, customers must be verified to be over the age of 18 and confidential information available to employees of fantasy sites must be protected so as to ensure a level playing field for all customers.
One point of contention regarding the bill was the inclusion of relatively high fees for sites seeking a license. Operators are required to pay for the cost of the initial background check, up to a maximum of $50,000. Sites will also be required to pay an annual tax of 11.5% of the previous year’s net revenue. Additionally, sites will be asked to pay an annual licensing fee of $10,000 or 10% of the previous year’s net revenue, whichever is smaller.
Governor Jay Nixon signed off on the bill in June of 2016.
Is it legal to bet online in Missouri?
State laws consider it a Class C misdemeanor to participate in gambling as a player outside of licensed facilities. Section 527.020 of the Missouri Revised Statutes lays it out plainly:
572.020. 1. A person commits the crime of gambling if he knowingly engages in gambling.
- Gambling is a class C misdemeanor unless:
(1) It is committed by a professional player, in which case it is a class D felony; or
(2) The person knowingly engages in gambling with a minor, in which case it is a class B misdemeanor.
A Class C misdemeanor in Missouri results in up to 15 days of jail time. It becomes a more serious Class D felony if you are considered a “professional” gambler with up to four years in jail. These laws are rarely (if ever) enforced so the risk appears small but it is there nonetheless.
There are no cases in which a person has ever been charged for participating in online gambling in this state. Authorities focus instead on those who organize games and participate in the real world. There seems to be no appetite in hunting down people who merely visit unlicensed websites on their personal computers to place wagers.
Even though the law is enforced sporadically, it is technically incorrect when other websites claim that it is “legal” to gamble online in Missouri. The law may not be enforced, but it clearly outlaws participating in gambling in general terms that could easily be applied to the internet.
This is just something worth keeping in mind on the off-chance that some prosecutor somewhere suddenly decides to begin enforcing the law. The odds of that happening are minimal but I believe it’s always best to know the whole story rather than to pretend online betting is completely legal in the state.
The biggest real risk at this time is just in getting paid. When you place wagers at offshore sites, you have no option but to trust that they will give you a fair game and pay your winnings when you’re done gambling. Some overseas betting sites have proven themselves trustworthy over a number of years but others have proven that there is nothing you can do if they decide to close without warning or simply refuse to honor withdrawal requests.
If you decide to play online poker or place bets at unlicensed casino sites, I wish you the best of luck but that’s as much as I’ll say on that. Our primary goal with BettingUSA.com is to give you the real deal on what’s 100% legal right now; not on recommending unregulated offshore gaming sites that operate under very murky legal waters.
Can I play the MO lottery online?
No. The Missouri Lottery does not sell lottery tickets online nor does it offer a subscription service. All tickets must be purchased at approved retailers inside the state. The MO Lottery FAQ page explains that the state does not currently sell any tickets online whatsoever.
There are plenty of websites that claim to sell MO lotto tickets online, however. Those sites are not authorized and break a whole variety of state and federal laws if they even do sell Missouri tickets online. You should keep in mind these sites are hosted overseas and there are zero legal mechanisms to ensure you get paid if you win the big one.