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 sports betting is under consideration in Missouri, although progress on that end hasn’t been as quick as it has for other states. Still, the introductions of multiple sports betting bills in 2018 and 2019 show there is some willpower there and make Missouri appear increasingly likely to eventually make legal sports betting a reality.
Fantasy sports and online games of skill are already legal in Missouri. Online poker and casino games are not legal at this time, and there are no serious efforts underway to change that at present.
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.
Sports Betting in Missouri
Missouri seems to be slowly cozying up to the idea of legal in-person and online sports betting. This would have seemed like a huge longshot just a few years ago, but the state has seen multiple bills introduced over the past two years seeking to legalize and regulate sports betting.
Bills to legalize and regulation sports betting have been introduced in each of the last two years. Two sports betting bills were introduced within a month of one another in 2018 even before the Supreme Court issued its decision that ended the national sports betting ban, and more were introduced the following year.
The latest effort to legalize MO sports betting comes from a pair of bills introduced in January of 2019. One of those seeks to authorize the state’s casinos to offer in-person and mobile betting in return for paying a $10,000 licensing fee, 2% administrative fee and 12% tax rate. SB 44 includes a 0.5% integrity fee applied to total wagering handle, which has proven highly unpopular among industry types and some lawmakers
A separate but similar bill, SB 222, was introduced that same month and also sought to legalize both in-person and online betting. Where this bill differs from SB 44 is that it includes no integrity fee and calls for a lower tax rate of just 6.75%.
2018 also saw the introduction of two sports betting bills contingent on the Supreme Court overturning PASPA. The first was bill SB 767 introduced in January of 2018. This bill’s original intent was not to legalize sports betting; it was a bill that wanted to allow video lottery machines to be installed in certain locations outside of casinos. Existing casinos were opposed to the bill due to concerns all those new machines would impact their revenues, so lawmakers added language to the bill allowing casinos to conduct sports betting.
A second bill (SB 1013) dealt specifically with sports betting and also wants to legalize it at existing casinos. However, this one was different in that it called for a controversial 1% integrity fee to be applied to total betting handle and donated to the professional sports leagues.
Although one percent may not sound like a big number, it’s actually massive because it is applied to the total value of bets placed. This fee would be the equivalent of taxing casinos at least 20% on sports betting revenue and giving all that money straight to the MLB, NBA and other pro leagues. That amount would be taken out in addition to 14% in other taxes and fees imposed by the legislation.
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.
To this day, Missouri lacks a horse racing betting industry. There are no off-track betting locations, no racetracks and no online betting sites open to customers from the Show Me State.
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.
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.