Legal online betting options in Missouri currently consist of daily fantasy sports and online horse racing betting.
Mobile sports betting remains prohibited in Missouri, but that is unlikely to remain the case forever. Lawmakers have introduced multiple bills to authorize mobile betting and retail sportsbooks in Missouri every year since 2018.
Although every effort to legalize MO sports betting has stumbled at some point along the way, there is a clear desire among many in the legislature to get something through. Missouri will likely legalize sports betting eventually.
Legal Betting Sites in MO
Horse Racing Betting:
Other forms of gambling legal in Missouri include riverboat casinos and the state lottery. The Missouri Gaming Commission serves as the state’s primary regulator, overseeing casino gambling, daily fantasy sports and charitable gaming.
Missouri Sports Betting
Missouri appears to be on track to legalize sports betting. Lawmakers have introduced several bills each year going back to 2018 that would legalize retail sportsbooks, mobile betting or both.
The biggest challenge facing lawmakers presently is striking the right compromise between competing interests. Legislation introduced in 2018, 2019 and 2020 took a variety of formats, sometimes calling for a competitive, low tax environment and other times calling for considerable taxes plus integrity fees to be paid to the sports leagues.
Missouri came into 2020 as a strong contender to legalize sports betting. Then, COVID-19 came to the Show Me State and lawmakers decided to end the spring legislative session early, before they could reach a consensus on how sports betting should be regulated.
Lawmakers introduced five sports betting bills in 2020 before the legislative session was cut short. None managed to advance very far before the end of the session, but they do provide some insight into how various pro-sports betting legislators are thinking.
- HB 2284 by Rep Cody Smith would have legalized retail sportsbooks at casinos and permitted each license to operate up to three individual mobile betting platforms. The bill would have established a $25,000 licensing fee plus $50,000 annual renewal fee, required operators to rely on official league data for in-play betting if requested by sports leagues and set the tax rate on sports betting at 9%.
- HB 2318 by Rep Phil Christofanelli also sought to authorize retail sportsbooks at casinos and permit each to operate up to three mobile betting platforms. Under this bill, licenses would have cost $50,000 to be followed by a $20,000 annual renewal fee, set a tax rate of 6.75% and did not include an official data mandate.
- HB 2088 by Rep. Dan Shaul called for legalizing retail sportsbooks at casinos, mobile betting and permitted the lottery to offer parlay-style sports wagers. Licensing fees for casinos to offer sports betting were to be set at $25,000 plus a $50,000 renewal fee, while the bill also included an official data provision for in-play wagers and established a 9% tax rate.
Two other bills introduced in the Senate also called for retail sportsbooks at casinos and mobile betting.
- SB 754 by Sen Tony Luetkemeyer called for a licensing fee of $10,000 plus $5,000 annual renewal fee, included a 0.75% royalty fee to be paid to the sports leagues and set the tax rate at 6.25%.
- SB 567 by Sen Denny Hoskins sought a $25,000 licensing fee, $50,000 annual renewal fee, 0.25% royalty fee to be paid to the leagues and set the tax rate at 9%.
Fantasy Sports Law
Missouri legalized fantasy sports in 2016 with a law clarifying their legal status and implementing consumer protection measures. Fantasy sites operated in Missouri prior to the new law but did so in an environment of legal uncertainty.
The state legislature decided to take up the issue in 2016 and drafted HB 1941 to expressly authorize and regulate daily fantasy sports. Governor Jay Nixon signed the bill into law in June 2016.
Under the Missouri Fantasy Sports Consumer Protection Act, fantasy operators must apply for a license from the Missouri Gaming Commission, hold customer funds in a separate account segregated from operational funds, offer self-exclusion programs, ensure all customers are 18 or older, verify the identity of every customer and ensure that confidential information available to employees of fantasy sites is 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.
The Missouri Gaming Commission keeps a list of licensed fantasy operators available for viewing here.
Horse Racing Betting in Missouri
Parimutuel horse racing betting is legal on paper in Missouri but there are no active venues at which patrons can bet on horses today.
The lack of any real horse racing industry in Missouri persists despite a measure approved by voters in 1984 authorizing parimutuel wagering at racetracks. The ballot measure was approved by a large majority of voters and even established the Missouri Horse Racing Commission.
However, lawmakers approved a restrictive horse racing law that only allows simulcasting for the same number of days that live racing is held at that track. This law hampered the financial viability of would-be racetracks and deterred developers from investing in the construction of a track anywhere in the state.
A bill to authorize year-round simulcasting was introduced in 2002 and failed before becoming law. The costs of hosting live races combined with increased competition from actual casinos make the long-term survival of a racetrack unlikely without year-round simulcasting or approval to offer on-premises casino games.
Online Horse Racing Betting
Missouri law is unclear on the legality of advance deposit wagering. MO Rev Stat § 313.660 appears to prohibit all parimutuel wagering that does not take place at a track. The applicable statute reads as follows:
Off-track wagering prohibited, penalty. — 1. No individual shall for a fee, directly or indirectly, accept anything of value to be wagered or to be transmitted or delivered for wager in any pari-mutuel system of wagering on horse racing or for a fee deliver anything of value which has been received outside of the enclosure of a race track holding a horse race licensed under sections 313.500 to 313.710 to be placed as wagers in the pari-mutuel pool within such enclosure.
2. Any individual violating the provisions of this section shall upon conviction be guilty of a class D felony.
Nonetheless, one mainstream horse racing betting site that holds multiple licenses in the US accepts wagers from residents (TwinSpires). Missouri authorities have so far declined to take action against TwinSpires.
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.
1. 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 for those who operate unlawful gambling activities as “professional” gamblers with up to four years in jail.
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.
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.
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.