Missouri Online Poker Laws
Online poker players in Missouri have been left scratching their heads and shrugging their shoulders in wonder as to whether it’s legal to participate in their favorite pastime. There are multiple state-licensed casinos in Missouri, several of which offer a live poker room, so we know that gambling in general is not outlawed. Unfortunately, deciphering the abstruse laws of any state can be a difficult task for anyone who didn’t pass the bar exam. Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey are the only states to have officially legalized and regulated online poker and other forms of casino gambling, but just because an activity isn’t explicitly legalized doesn’t necessarily mean it’s illegal.
Legality of Online Poker Missouri
There is no literature in the Missouri Revised Statutes that relates directly to “internet” poker or gambling. In order to determine whether online poker is legal in Missouri, we must thoroughly examine the laws as they pertain to gambling in general. We are not licensed to practice law, therefore our interpretation may not be as accurate as that of a legal authority. We recommend contacting an attorney for a 100% accurate answer to the question of whether online poker in Missouri is prohibited.
With that said, let’s take a closer look at the laws of the Show-Me State as they may pertain to online poker. We will also take a brief moment to review the current status of online poker regulation in Missouri, and whether or not it’s ‘in the cards’ for the state’s foreseeable future.
Missouri Revised Statutes –Gambling
Chapter 572 of the Missouri Revised Statues deals directly with gambling related issues, from legal gaming activities, to prohibited gambling, to penalties for committing relevant crimes. To read the complete statutes relating to gambling, please use the link above, or simply keep reading for a more concise view. The following text is an abridged version of the chapter, containing only experts that may relate to online poker players. Care has been taken not to later the meaning due to any omitted context.
Sec. 572.10 Definitions
Contest of Chance: means 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;
Gambling: a person engages in “gambling” when he stakes 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. [Does not include legal, bona fide business transactions or insurance claims.] Gambling does not include any licensed activity, or persons participating in such games…
Gambling Device: means any device, machine, paraphernalia or equipment that is used or usable in the playing phases of any gambling activity, whether that activity consists of gambling between persons or gambling by a person with a machine. [Excludes state-regulated lottery devices.]
Player: means 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… [excludes social games of chance.]
Professional Player: means 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;
Unlawful: means not specifically authorized by law.
1. A person commits the crime of gambling if he knowingly engages in gambling.
2. 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.
1. A person commits the crime of possession of a gambling device if, with knowledge of the character thereof, he manufactures, sells, transports, places or possesses, or conducts or negotiates any transaction affecting or designed to affect ownership, custody or use of:
(1) A slot machine; or
(2) Any other gambling device, knowing or having reason to believe that it is to be used in the state of Missouri in the advancement of unlawful gambling activity.
2. Possession of a gambling device is a class A misdemeanor.
What does it all mean? Is online poker illegal in Missouri?
Because the term unlawful is defined as anything “not specifically authorized by law”, the fact there is no online poker site licensed and authorized by the state can be easily interpreted as meaning that online poker is illegal in Missouri. The argument that poker is a game of skill is ineffectual since gambling includes any game of chance, with or without a degree of skill involved. Due to its ambiguity, the term gambling device could also be interpreted as one of many things, including a computer, laptop or mobile device that is utilized for the purpose of playing poker online. Also note that a penalty, ranging from misdemeanor to felony, can be enforced for committing unlawful gambling.
Is Missouri working to regulate online poker?
There are no current bills that have been drafted and presented to the Senate or House that pertain to online poker, nor any recent propositions to expand the existing land-based and/or riverboat casino industry in Missouri. It’s apparent that online gambling is not anywhere near the forefront of politics at the moment. However, Missouri does have an affable attitude towards the collection of taxes via state licensed gambling activities. That, combined with a mounting budget deficit, leads us to believe that Missouri will eventually regulate online poker. That won’t likely happen until online poker is regulated on a federal level and widely accepted across more territories in the US. With that said, it could be at least another year or two before Missouri legalizes online poker.