Poker Laws in Missouri
Important MO Notes
- Citizens from MO can play legally at offshore poker rooms
- The state has a heavy anti-gambling stance
- Only riverboat casino gambling is legal in Missouri
- Gambling prohibition laws not heavily enforced
- Live poker is available on riverboats
- 0 never
From the current rules in Missouri’s law books, it is clear that operating an online poker site within the state is not legally allowed. Missouri hasn’t shown many signs of advancing any laws that will make online poker or gambling a legal pastime within its borders, and they aren’t likely to set up a licensing authority to regulate an online poker industry in the near future. Missouri residents are regularly found playing legally at offshore poker rooms.
Future Outlook of Online Poker in Missouri – Estimated date of legalization: 2020-2021
The following graph tracks our expected legislation of online poker in Missouri on a state law level. It is currently already legal on a Federal level. This graph monitors the current rise or fall of expected legalization.
Missouri seems to be very clear on its policy regarding gambling in general and poker in particular: If it’s not stipulated by law, it’s illegal. There have been no moves to legalize or regulate online poker in the Midwestern Show Me State, despite the fact that it’s one of the most populous, just over 6 million people, of the fifty states and would be able to provide a large player pool to any potential online poker operator.
If it were up to the Missouri Attorney General, Chris Kostner, the status of online poker in the state will not be changed. In a note entitled Internet Gambling in Missouri, the Attorney General says: “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.”
Furthermore, when online poker actually does make headlines in Missouri, it is usually to advise about the indictment of people found operating illegal gambling operations over the internet. In 2012, the United States Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Missouri issued a press release entitled: “Two Joplin Men Indicted for Internet Gambling.” The press release reported on two Joplin residents, William Lisle and Kenneth B. Lovett who were charged in a 16 count indictment by a federal grand jury for operating an illegal gambling operation.
With this type of “bad publicity”, coupled with the Attorney General’s warning and Missouri’s tough stance on illegal gambling, it seems that we won’t be seeing changes in the state’s online poker regime for awhile.
History of Gambling in Missouri
Land Based Poker in Missouri
The game of poker in Missouri is governed by gambling laws, specifically Section 572.010(4) [A], which describes the definition of a gambler as he or she who, “takes 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.”
Players hoping to use the “poker is a game of skill” argument, will find that the law covers that as well: A contest of chance is described as, “any contest, game, gaming scheme or gaming device in which the outcome depends in a material degree upon an element of chance, notwithstanding the skill of the all the contestants may also be a factor therein.”
In a nutshell, the game of poker is available in Missouri, as long as it takes place in a regulated environment such as a state riverboat casino. Poker players will find a good range of poker rooms in Missouri casinos, including Harrah’s St. Louis which hosts one of the Heartland Poker Tour and World Series of Poker Circuit stops.
While the law does not stipulate that home poker games are illegal per se, it is generally understood by the gist of the law, that they are not allowed, whether someone is making a profit or not.
Gambling Laws in Missouri
Missouri’s gambling laws, under state code 97-33-1 et seq.; 75-76-1 et seq., are considered tough and unforgiving for those who flaunt them. Missouri’s gambling laws not only cover players and operators in separate sections, but also amateur and professional gamblers.
A professional gambler, described in Section 572.010(9) is 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” and could face up to four years in jail on a class D felony under Missouri law.
Amateur gamblers who are caught gambling illegally are faced with a Class C misdemeanor, although that intensifies to a Class B if the gambler knowingly bets with a minor.
Gambling operators who don’t work according to the letter of the law face tough penalties in Missouri. A gambling operator is described as a person who “advances gambling activity” if, acting other than as a player, he engages in conduct that materially aids any form of gambling activity. Conduct of this nature includes but is not limited to conduct directed toward the creation or establishment of the particular game, lottery, contest, scheme, device or activity involved, toward the acquisition or maintenance of premises, paraphernalia, equipment or apparatus therefor, toward the solicitation or inducement of persons to participate therein, toward the actual conduct of the playing phases thereof, toward the arrangement or communication of any of its financial or recording phases, or toward any other phase of its operation. A person advances gambling activity if, having substantial proprietary control or other authoritative control over premises being used with his knowledge for purposes of gambling activity, he permits that activity to occur or continue or makes no effort to prevent its occurrence or continuation.
So what is considered ‘legal gambling’ in Missouri? According to Gambling Laws [B], gambling can take place on licensed excursion gambling boats and floating facilities which house games of chance and skill, including poker, craps and blackjack. Horse racing and pari-mutuel wagering on international or interstate horse race simulcasts are legal, but off-track wagering is not.
Bingo sponsored by bona fide charitable organizations is legal, however bookmaking and the possession of gambling records and devices is illegal.
Other, lesser known, laws pertaining to gambling in Missouri include the fact that money that is lost while gambling can be recovered through a civil suit and that parents can recover a minor’s gambling loss.
The Attorney General’s site sums up three elements which make up illegal promotion:
1. Prize is any benefit, cash or property awarded to a winner.
2. Chance means the winner is chosen by “luck” with little or no skill or ability involved.
3. Consideration is the exchange of something of value for the opportunity to participate in the game.
Casinos in Missouri are regulated by the Missouri Gaming Commission (whose mission statement is to, “regulate charitable and commercial gaming in manner which promotes a positive impact on the state and ensures the integrity of the industry.”
According to a 2012 industry report [C], casinos pay an effective tax rate of 27% off the top, as well as other business taxes, and contribute more revenue to the state than all of the 600,000 corporations operating in Missouri. The industry employs approximately 10,000 people and contributed $386 million to the state in taxes and admission fees in 2012. The American Gaming Association did a study which mentioned casinos in Missouri generated $3.4 billion to the state’s total economy in 2013.
There are at present 13 river boat casino establishments, namely: Ameristar – St. Charles, Ameristar – Kansas City, Argosy Casino, Harrah’s Casino – Kansas City, Hollywood Casino – St. Louis, Isle of Capri – Cape Girardeau, Isle of Capri – Kansas City, Lady Luck Casino, Lumiere Place, River City Casino, Mark Twain Casino and St. Jo Frontier Casino.
Casino gambling has only been legal in Missouri since 1992, and operators have faced an uphill battle to see developments in this sphere. Today, riverboat casinos are legal on the Missouri and Mississippi rivers, with many offering other facilities, including restaurants, night entertainment, family friendly activities, food and drink. Laws have improved somewhat over the years and today, many riverboat casinos are allowed to be permanently docked and some are even housed in permanent structures. In 2008, Missourians voted on Proposition A which repealed a previous $500 maximum loss limit.
Today, Missouri casinos offer blackjack, poker, roulette, slots, keno, craps and baccarat. Missouri has a Voluntary Exclusion Program which allows gamblers to request that they not be allowed into any of the state’s casinos if they believe that they have compulsive gambling habits. The legal age to gamble at casinos in Missouri is 21 and older. As of November 4, 2014, casino customers can now gamble on credit since the Missouri Gaming Commission approved a new state law.
Racing in Missouri is governed by the state’s Horse Racing Commission [D], whose mission it is to, “oversee the development and administration of the pari-muteul horse racing industry in Missouri and encourage the breeding of Missouri horses for use in the racing industry.”
The relevant laws in Missouri legislation governing pari-mutuel wagering are listed under Article III, section 39 (C).
However, although it is theoretically legal to wager on horse racing in the state, the industry is moribund. Voters approved pari-mutuel wagering at tracks in 1984 but only limited simulcasting was approved. Over the years, efforts have been made to lift restrictions to allow year-round betting on simulcasts (instead of just on the days that live horse races are held), however none of these attempts successfully passed in the legal channels.
Missouri has no federally recognized reservations, and therefore, tribes cannot build casinos in the state. Local players, however, regularly visit the Indigo Sky Casino in Wyandotte, Oklahoma, run by the Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma. The casino offers 1,200 electronic games, 12 table games, live bingo, a poker room, off-track betting and a high rollers area.
Since its inception in 1984, the Missouri Lottery [E] has collected millions of dollars for important social causes in the state. Around 25 cents of every dollar spent on the Missouri Lottery is earmarked for Missouri public schools. Lottery tickets are sold through licensed retailers and are not offered for sale via the internet. The lottery’s website states: “While federal legislation as exempted state lotteries from a new law restricting interstate online wagering, it is still unclear at this time how the new law will impact the sales of lottery tickets via the internet.” The minimum age to play games or enter draws run by the Missouri Lottery is 18. Current lottery games include Club Keno, Pick 3 and Pick 4, Show me Cash, and the Missouri Lotto, together with a number of multi jurisdictional games such as Powerball and Mega Millions.
The Missouri Attorney General has issued a warning to state residents regarding foreign lotteries and the danger of losing money to scams. “A foreign lottery is one gamble you don’t want to be part of,” writes AG Chris Koster.
The Charitable Games Division of the Missouri Gaming Commission [F], established in 1994, is responsible for the, “integrity of gaming, and regulating the operation of bingo and other associated games to enable honest games for bingo players.”
According to the Commission, the profits made by sponsoring organizations are earmarked for charities prescribed by the state’s Constitution. The Commission restricts the operation of bingo and other associated games to, “licensed, religious, charitable, fraternal, veteran and service organizations.”
Restrictions on bingo game operations include that a member of the group cannot receive game proceeds, or use any of the proceeds to pay game workers; that all workers must be volunteers and members of the group for at least two years; that the bingo license has to be displayed at all times and the license must be renewed annually.
Since its inception in the state , bingo has generated over $100 million in tax revenue for Missouri’s Proceeds for Education Fund.
Specified groups may also legally sponsor raffles and sweepstakes, and Missourians may participate in games or contests of skill or chance where no consideration is required to be eligible for a prize (for example, restaurants which offer free tickets for meals without the need to make a purchase).
When it comes to out of state games, Missouri residents may participate in contests and/or purchase lottery tickets in other states, as long as the tickets are not bought in Missouri.
Author: Joseph Falchetti (twitter)
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