Missouri Poker Laws and Regulated Gaming
Missouri laws do not specify if online poker is legal in Missouri or illegal. Horse racing and pari-mutuel wagering on international or interstate horse racing is legal, but off-track wagering is not legal. Charitable bingo is allowed, as well as some other casino games for non-profit purposes. The lottery was authorized in 1984, and sales began two years later.
In 1992, Missouri voters approved riverboat gambling, at first with only poker and blackjack games. The Missouri Gaming Commission was then established the following year to regulate those gambling boats, which were allowed on the Missouri and Mississippi rivers or within 100 feet of them in artificial moats. The first two riverboats were opened in the St. Louis area in 1994 with numerous others following in subsequent years. By 1995, those entities were authorized to include slot machines, which led the to a flurry of new riverboat casino openings throughout the late 1990s.
Over the years, more leniency was granted to the casinos, such as the cruising requirement that was lifted in 2000 and the $500-per-session loss limit that was erased in 2008. This allowed for more tables, bigger games, and poker tournaments.
Latest Developments Regarding Online Poker in Missouri
One of the most famous cases in Missouri regarding online gambling was in 2006 when the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri issued indictments for BetonSports, an online gambling company based in the UK. The indictments covered CEO David Carruthers and company founder Gary Kaplan, both of who were brought to St. Louis for trial, sentencing, and to serve prison time for offering services to players in Missouri.
At the time, it was a unique case and led to the exit of a number of online gambling companies from the US market due to fears of similar prosecutions.
As for legal online poker in Missouri and any other internet-based casino games, it has come up on a few times in passing.
In 2012 when Nevada Senator John Heller was working on a plan to legalize online poker via the US Congress, he noted that Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri was one of the people in the talks. However, the staunch conservative Congressman never committed to support any such plan.
Missouri is considering legalized sports betting in 2018 with bills in both chambers of the state assembly to do so. The bills are collectively called the “Comprehensive Missouri Sports Betting and Sports Protection Act,” and they seek to allow sports betting on riverboat casino and online should the US Supreme Court rule favorably this spring on the New Jersey sports betting case. If states are then allowed to pass their own sports betting laws, Missouri seeks to be one of many that is ready to do so.
Missouri Laws Pertinent to Online Poker
The Missouri Code of State Regulations puts gambling into Title 11 for the Department of Public Safety. Division 45 is set aside for the Missouri Gaming Commission, and it details licensing requirements and rules for everything from fantasy sports to race tracks and riverboat gambling.
As for the Missouri Statutes, gambling is addressed primarily in Chapter 313, which assigns duties to the Missouri Gaming Commission and dictates all legal forms of gambling. Sections are designated as:
- State lottery
- Horse racing
- Excursion gambling boats
- Fantasy sports
And Chapter 572, labeled Crimes and Punishments, goes into the basics of gambling, including forms that are illegal. It starts with a definition of gambling as when a person
“stakes or risks something of value upon the outcome of a contest of chance or a future contingent event not under his or her control or influence, upon an agreement or understanding that he or she will receive something of value in the event of a certain outcome.”
As for the contest of chance, it is defined as
“any contest, game, gaming scheme or gaming device in which the outcome depends in a material degree upon an element of chance, notwithstanding that the skill of the contestants may also be a factor therein.”
This seems to say that if there is any element of chance in the game, such as in poker, the entire game is listed as one of chance. This would make a skill game argument very difficult under the current legal definitions.
If a person commits a gambling offense by knowingly engaging in gambling, that person can be convicted of a class C misdemeanor unless “it is committed by a professional player, in which case it is a class A misdemeanor.”
With that said, a player is defined as
“a person who engages in any form of gambling solely as a contestant or bettor, without receiving or becoming entitled to receive any profit therefrom other than personal gambling winnings, and without otherwise rendering any material assistance to the establishment, conduct or operation of the particular gambling activity.”
And further, a professional player is listed as
“a player who engages in gambling for a livelihood or who has derived at least twenty percent of his or her income in any one year within the past five years from acting solely as a player.”
This seems to put professional poker players in a different category from other players, though the definitions do not speak to the legality of the games with reference to its players.
Disclaimer: This is not written by an attorney and is not or should not be construed as legal advice. Please consult an attorney for help interpreting these laws as they pertain to any given situation.
Frequently Asked Questions
Question: Will Missouri crack down on internet poker like it did on sports betting?
Answer: It is unlikely. The move against BetOnSports was a unique one that proved its point at the time. Missouri won’t likely be prompted or motivated to go after online gaming operators unless there is a federal law passed that encourages it.
Question: Am I in danger of arrest or prosecution for playing online?
Answer: No. The Missouri gambling laws is not specific about online poker or gambling at all, and players are in no danger whatsoever of prosecution. Even if the state’s law enforcement officials decide to pursue the operators, players will not be targeted.
Question: How can I take advantage of promotions on internet poker sites?
Answer: A person need only log on to the poker site of choice, create a new account, and take advantage of the deposit bonus offer from our page. Once the account is open, players can access any of the promotions on sites like BetOnline and Bovada, as well as special reload bonuses.
Gaming Resources in Missouri