Real Money Online Gambling in Missouri

With both the Mississippi and Missouri rivers running through their state, legendary rivers that have featured riverboat gambling, gambling is far from a new thing for Missouri, although the state allowing it explicitly is quite new. Missouri never had a law permitting gambling until the 1980’s, even though they may have turned a blind eye to it at various times in its history.

Prohibition in Missouri has now been defeated, and once the state constitution was modified to permit it, the doors swung open and the state welcomed the array of casinos that now stand today and serve their residents. Missouri still doesn’t have any approved real money online gambling though, and don’t seem to be in much of a hurry to welcome it, especially when it comes to online poker and online casino gambling.

Things aren’t so bad in Missouri for online gamblers though, as the only real consequence of the state’s reluctance is that players have to use workarounds like Bitcoin to deposit and withdraw from online sites. We’ll show you everything that is going on in Missouri related to gambling, what the prospects of expansion are, and why this doesn’t even matter much.

History of Gambling in Missouri

Missouri Online Casinos and SlotsIn spite of Missouri being a fairly progressive state when it comes to gambling these days, Missouri didn’t get around to legalizing any form of gambling until 1984, when it legalized pari-mutuel betting on horse races. There was only one problem with this, which is that Missouri still doesn’t have any pari-mutuel tracks to bet on, but regardless, we finally had the potential at least to place bets at commercial gambling establishments in Missouri.

This required a change in the state’s constitution, where gambling had been previously against the law, and that was the biggest obstacle to legal gambling in the state since legislators can’t pass laws that are not permitted by their constitution. This constitutional amendment took the means to pass laws permitting gambling and handed the matter over to the state government, and making pari-mutuel wagering now legal was just the first step in opening up the gambling market in Missouri more.

Missouri didn’t have any other legal commercial gambling options at this point, not even a state lottery, but that got created in 1988. The Missouri Lottery has been fairly successful but has seen its profits decline as other forms of gambling became available in the state.

The new gambling frontier of the 1980s and beyond also permitted social gambling, with the usual provisions of only the participants benefiting. Missouri also allows charitable gambling under certain conditions, and the conditions that Missouri imposes upon charitable gambling operators are as strict as they come, but the state does permit it on a limited basis.

This left casino gambling unaddressed, where the natural progression would be to allow riverboat gambling again, as several neighboring states had already in the early 1990s when Missouri considered doing so as well. Riverboat gambling had been quite popular in the 19th century along the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, at a time where states only outlawed gambling on land and riverboat operators took advantage of this loophole to escape state regulation.

These loopholes eventually got closed, but states along the way have always tended to take a less harsh approach to gambling over water within their borders. Once gambling became more in fashion in the 1980’s, and nearby states wanted to get in on the movement toward allowing casino gambling, it was quite natural for them to start by allowing riverboat casinos.

Missouri joined them in 1992 after a state referendum passed to allow riverboat gambling, for the first time actually. For whatever reason, riverboat gambling in this part of the country has enjoyed a somewhat detached view, where perhaps the alleged sin of gambling falls upon them less if it happens in the water and not on land.

Missouri’s first legal riverboat casinos were limited to 2 hour journeys and players were only allowed to lose up to $500. In 1996, the state relented and allowed for gambling to be offered in permanent structures, but the $500 cap on losses persisted until 2008 when it was finally tossed by an amendment to the law.

Missouri now has 13 casinos, of a combination of casinos over water and over land, ranging from very small to fairly decently-sized. All of them are commercial casinos, and Missouri has no tribal casinos, with the closest one being over the border in Oklahoma. Tribal casinos in the United States serve to fill the gaps left in states that have little or no casino gambling, where states get “stuck” with Indian casinos whether they like it or not, but Missouri likes casinos now, so there really isn’t much of a gap to fill.

Missouri has joined the many states that either have legalized sports betting or are seeking to, with a bill currently under debate that would allow current casino operators to offer both land-based and online sports betting. Given Missouri’s change of heart toward gambling, this bill or a similar one getting passed seems just a matter of time.

Missouri Gambling Laws

The goal of state gambling laws is generally to seek to first outlaw any gambling where they reserve the right to amend their blanket prohibitions by authorizing desired types. For example, a state’s law may make it against the law to gamble at everything, unless specifically allowed. This allows a state to exert a maximum amount of control over what is legal and what is not, instead of having cracks in their law that may allow for forms that they may not have intended.

Missouri’s gambling law is very tight in this respect, perhaps even tighter than state legislators realize, given that they have added provisions which really were not necessary. Gambling in Missouri is wagering anything of value upon “the outcome of a contest or chance or a future contingent event not under his control or influence.”

The inclusion of the chance element is actually superfluous, as the provision that wagers are not allowed to be made based upon contingent events not under one’s control bans all forms of gambling entirely, because this is a necessary element of all third party wagering.

It is the element of the outcome not being under one’s control that really slams the door, as if the outcome were under our control, there wouldn’t be any reason to bet on it. You could place a bet with yourself that you will pick up your cup of coffee in the next minute, and win that bet, but betting with someone else on anything will have at least one party not having the outcome under their control, and even betting on an arm wrestling match is not fully under the control of either participant.

Missouri’s gambling law completely clears the table, and now that they have made all gambling in all forms illegal basically, they are now in an ideal position to tell us what they do allow. This is what all gambling law seeks, whether a state wants to permit just about everything in contrast to this or absolutely nothing.

There is nothing in this law to be confused about, even though no matter now well the law is written, and Missouri’s is as good as they come since it does not even have the slightest crack, some people will still be confused, alleging perhaps that the law doesn’t specify any particular gambling games or means of gambling that are included, like online gambling, although if all gambling is illegal, online gambling is part of the bigger set of all gambling. The only exceptions to this is what Missouri law specifically authorizes.

Land-Based Gambling in Missouri

The Missouri Lottery was not only the first lottery ever created in Missouri, it is also the first legal gambling that the state has seen. Pari-mutuel betting on horses was legalized 4 years earlier, but no one has stepped up to build a racetrack to take advantage of this change in the law, to this day.

Once casinos hit the scene a few years later, once they became legal in 1992, this did skim off the lottery’s profits, although that is to be expected given that a percentage of their players now had another option to spend their gambling budget on. Missouri eased into the casino scene by imposing a cap on daily losses of $500, which does provide some real insight into the reasons behind the state being cautious with this rollout.

Missouri at least didn’t stay hung up on the gambling over water thing, and fairly early on in their casino gambling history got rid of this requirement, although the $500 cap died much harder and remained in effect until 2008. This rule did not account for the differences between gamblers, where those of lower income might be seriously harmed by losing this much but one of considerably more wealth may not even be interested in playing for the small stakes this rule required them to. The rule is finally gone now though.

The Missouri casino scene may not remind anyone of Las Vegas, but the state does have 13 casinos currently in operation, down from 14 as one of them went under in 2010. The President Casino Laclede’s Landing was a stationary riverboat casino that operated in the St. Louis area, and was one of the first casinos to open in the state back in 1994, but declining revenues in the aftermath of the Great Recession proved too great too manage.

This is a healthy thing though and you only know that you have achieved market saturation when it becomes down to the survival of the fittest where the market is not big enough for everyone. This at least seemed to be the case in the St. Louis area in 2010 anyway.

St. Louis still has several casinos standing, starting with the Lumiere Place, one of the most gorgeous buildings you’ll find anywhere, with two hotels, including the top ranked hotel in Missouri, the AAA Five Diamond Four Seasons St. Louis. It also has the highest rated casino in the state, with a gaming floor of 70,000 square feet, with 1.450 slots, 55 casino gaming tables and a 10 table poker room.

The River City Casino in nearby Lemay has an even bigger casino, coming in at 90,000 square feet, with 2,000 slot machines and 55 casino tables. The casino used to have an 8 table poker room but it has since been converted into a baccarat room catering to Asian clients. The Hollywood Casino St. Louis, formerly known as Harrah’s St. Louis, has a 500 room hotel with 120,000 square feet of gaming space, 2,180 slots, and 91 casino table games.

Ameristar owns 2 casinos in Missouri, including the Ameristar Casino Resort Spa St. Charles, also in the Greater St. Louis area. It features a 400 room hotel and a 130,000 square foot casino, with 7 restaurants, 12 bars, a spa, an entertainment venue, and 20,000 square feet of event space.

Boyd Gaming also operates the Ameristar Kansas City, Missouri’s other large city, which has an even larger casino, coming in at 140,000 square feet with 2,800 slots, 57 casino table games, and a 15 table poker room, to compliment its 184 room hotel.

The Argosy Casino Riverside, also in the Kansas City area, started as a riverboat casino and has now been converted to a land-based one, with a 258 room hotel and a 62,000 square foot casino, offering 1,500 slots and 37 table games. Casino KC is also located in Kansas City and is the only casino in the area without a hotel, with a 45,000 square foot casino and two restaurants.

Harrah’s North Kansas City offers a 392 room hotel, a 60,000 square foot casino, and 6 restaurants. The Isle of Capri Boonville is a stationary riverboat with a 140 room hotel and a 28,000 square foot casino. Century Casinos has 2 properties in Missouri, the 42,000 square foot Century Casino Cape Girardeau and the 21,000 square foot Century Casino Caruthersville.

The Mark Twain Casino in La Grange has an 18,000 square foot casino with 600 slots and 13 table games. The St. Jo Frontier Casino in St. Joseph rounds out the list with 18,000 square feet of gambling, with 556 slots and 11 poker tables.

Missouri is also toying with the idea of allowing their lottery to offer slots at bars and truck stops, with a maximum of 5 at bars and 10 at truck stops. This is part of the bill that is looking to roll out sports betting in the state, and the sports betting market in Missouri is estimated to be $5.5 billion a year, a number that has really caught the attention of legislators. A previous bill failed, and even if passed, it will be subject to a public vote, although getting it through the legislature is the bigger challenge.

Missouri Online Casinos & Slots Gambling

Even though Missouri has been quite open to casino gambling in general, enough that there isn’t even a place for the tribal gaming that dominates the gambling scene in many states who only have casino gambling because they can’t stop the Indians from offering it, Missouri has not taken a very progressive attitude toward online gambling, as of yet anyway.

The current bill being deliberated in the state House does seek to approve both land-based and online sports betting though, so they are swinging for the online fences with this one at least, whether or not they achieve it. The good news is that live and online sports betting aren’t being seen differently, in the way that people see all the land-based gambling you can manage as being perfectly all right but cringe at the prospect of online gambling, for no particular good reason other than it is new.

Given that there is no movement whatsoever to approve real money online poker and casino games, we may need to see online sports gambling approved and be successful for some time before Missouri legislators become more open to extending it to these two other popular forms of real money online gambling, but given how they are not seeming to be all that enthusiastic about sports betting as of yet, this could take some real time.

While there is no question that a state offering online gambling does expand it, as it will if and when online sports betting ever gets approved, the demand for sports betting isn’t created by such an offering, and a very substantial amount of money is already bet on sports by Missourians, which is where they get their forecasts as far as what state regulated sports betting would bring.

States pretending that online gambling does not go on in their state and this is somehow dependent upon their assent is the biggest problem, as this view is completely naïve. This is not about stopping or permitting people from gambling online, as states have absolutely no power to do this, to stop even a single player from gambling online all they want at any game they choose, provided that it is offered to them anywhere in the world.

The decision for a state to regulate online gambling always just comes down to their choosing to participate or not, to have their say in the matter rather than leaving all the regulatory decisions up to far flung locales on the other side of the world, and especially to look to tax a portion of the online gambling that goes on in their state, those who end up choosing their licensed real money online gambling sites over the competition.

There’s already plenty of licensed and regulated real money online gambling available to Missouri gamblers right now, not just online sports betting but online poker and online casino as well, and while we wait for Missouri to wake up and want in on this as well, we are free to gamble as much as we please on other sites because the state cannot stop or even slow this down.

Future of Gambling in Missouri

Whether or not you think Missouri’s gambling scene is lacking very much really comes down to having a proper understanding of what Missouri gamblers can and can’t do. You can engage in all the social gambling you want, you can play the lottery, you can engage in charitable gambling, as well as visit one of the state’s 13 casinos, most of them within a short drive from Missouri’s two big metropolitan areas, St. Louis and Kansas City, with both having a metro population of over 2 million.

As far as what remains unaddressed, this comes down to one thing, real money online gambling. There are a lot of people who are sitting back and waiting for Missouri to license and regulate online gambling, and not really being aware that there is no need to wait, and that a great many of their compatriots in Missouri and elsewhere in the country have continued to gamble online to their heart’s content, and some have been doing this for decades now.

There is no doubt that Missouri law prohibits all gambling they do not otherwise authorize, and they have not authorized online gambling as of yet, so going off on your own would clearly be breaking the law. With that said, the next question to ask is what the consequences of this would be.

The only consequence of this is having you enjoying real money online gambling versus not enjoying it by refraining due to legal concerns. Getting legal advice on something involves not only knowing what the law says but also what the law may do to you, the legal risk in other words, and there is simply no legal risk to breaking this law, as the state of Missouri cannot catch you doing this even if they wanted to.

This is the decision that Missouri players who wish to play online need to make, and we cannot ever advise anyone to ignore the law, as this decision ultimately resides in the player. For those who do choose to do so and want in on all of the fun that then awaits them, we are more than happy to point the way to ensure that your online experience will be the enlightened one it deserves to be.

Missouri Online Slots & Casinos FAQs
  • When did riverboat gambling first come to Missouri?

    In the heyday of riverboats, at a time where this was a major form of transportation, some riverboats that ran up and down major rivers such as the Mississippi and the Missouri rivers offered on-board gambling to their patrons. It is not that gambling was legal in Missouri at this time, but given that these riverboats were just passing through the state, for a long time they were ignored. Many years later, they became legal, once the state was ready.

  • Why were Missouri’s first casinos limited to riverboat casinos?

    Missouri stipulating that casinos in their state must be on riverboats was based upon more than just nostalgia. Like many states that had a history of riverboat gambling, somehow allowing this over water and not land was seen as preferable, perhaps less intrusive, where they may believe that their perceived negativity towards gambling becomes lessened by only allowing casinos to operate over water.

  • What does Missouri law say about gambling today?

    Missouri makes it a crime to gamble on anything where the outcome of the wager is contingent upon something not fully under control of the bettor. This very clearly prohibits all gambling, as the results of a bet must be contingent upon something, and if not, the result of the bet would already be known to all parties and there would be no opportunity to speculate by wagering. With all gambling banned, the state sets the table to tell you what gambling they allow.

  • What legal gambling options does Missouri allow?

    Missouri does allow for pari-mutuel wagering on horse races, although they have never had such races occur in Missouri to bet on. They also permit social gambling, where none of the participants benefits beyond their own winnings. Missouri also has a lottery, and also offers limited charitable gambling. The state also hosts 13 casinos of various sizes, but have yet to authorize any form of online gambling as of yet.

  • What types of real money gambling do Missouri casinos allow?

    Some states take a dimmer view of classic casino table games than slots, although it’s not clear why. It can’t be the fact that table games have a higher house edge than slots, because the reverse is true. States have no problem with offering lotteries whose house edge dwarfs anything found in a casino. Missouri does not hold this strange prejudice though and allows its casinos to offer a full range of slots, video gambling machines, casino table games, and real money poker.

  • How well do Missouri’s casinos serve the land-based gambling market in the state?

    Some states direct their casinos away from the population to some degree, and it makes economic sense to have any retail operation close to where the people live, to require them to travel shorter distances to participate. This is especially an issue if the only casinos in a state are run by tribes whose lands tend to be in less populated regions of the state. Missouri’s casinos are distributed more naturally, with almost all of them being close to the state’s 2 big cities, and Missouri therefore does a pretty good job at casino distribution.

  • Where does Missouri stand with regard to allowing sports betting?

    A great many states have either adopted regulated sports betting or are on the verge of doing so, and given how open Missouri is to casino gambling in general, some might think that they would be at least standing in line for this to happen very soon. It’s not that there isn’t any interest in the Missouri legislature to bring sports betting to the state, but the most they have done is toss the idea around and support for this needs to grow significantly before it can become a reality.

  • Do Missouri sports bettors need to wait for the state to get its act together?

    While there has never been any federal law that has prevented players from gambling at anything they wish, Missouri does prohibit gambling at anything that they don’t tell you that you are allowed to do, and betting on sports is not one of these approved options. This has not served to deter a great many sports bettors in Missouri, who have been wagering billions of dollars on sports a year for a long time now.

  • Why aren’t real money online gamblers afraid of Missouri law when they gamble?

    There are three elements in the execution of criminal law, with the first one being in violation of the law. The second step is the will of the state to prosecute certain violations, and states generally aren’t really interested in prosecuting players. The third element is enforceability, and no matter now badly a jurisdiction wants to stop online gambling, they are powerless to do so. The most they can do is to use preventative tactics such as limiting access to gambling sites, like they do in some countries, but players can simply use VPN’s to easily get around this.

  • Can Missouri players enjoy online poker and casino games as well without permission?

    The American online gambling market has remained pretty vibrant throughout the years, even after so many sites got scared away. Many other sites stepped up to fill the void, and if your state says no to real money online gambling, there are many sites located elsewhere that remain happy to take you. Should you wish to join the hoards of fellow Missourians that enjoy online gambling, we will show you the way.

Chief Editor: Mike leverages his true passion for online gambling to create a uniquely informative site that takes players well beyond the standard fare in the industry.