Gambling, lotteries, raffles
Gambling, with only a few exceptions, is illegal in Missouri. Those exceptions are restricted and highly regulated.
There are many types of gambling. Promotions that award prizes may be called contests, sweepstakes, lotteries, raffles, drawings or games. It is important to know the law and to understand what elements make a promotion illegal.
Three elements make up an illegal promotion:
- Prize is any benefit, cash or property awarded to a winner.
- Chance means the winner is chosen by "luck" with little or no skill or ability involved.
- Consideration is the exchange of something of value for the opportunity to participate in the game.
Legal games in Missouri
In 1984 Missouri voters passed a constitutional amendment giving the legislature authority to establish a state lottery. The legislature created the Missouri State Lottery Commission, under the Department of Revenue, and authorized the commission to set up the state lottery.
In 1992 Missouri voters passed a constitutional amendment legalizing gambling casinos on the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers. The legislature created the Missouri Gaming Commission, under the Department of Public Safety, to license and regulate casinos in the state.
Under provisions of the bingo law (Chapter 313, RSMo), a bingo game may be operated by a nonprofit organization (such as a charitable organization or religious, service or veterans group) or a fraternal organization that has maintained a membership of at least 20 for five years prior to applying for a bingo license.
There are several restrictions for bingo game operations. Among them:
- A member of a group cannot receive game proceeds or use any proceeds to pay game workers;
- All workers must be volunteers and members of the group for at least two years;
- The bingo license must be displayed during all games; and
- The group must renew its license yearly.
A raffle is a game in which a participant buys a ticket for a chance at a prize, with the winner determined by a random drawing to take place at a location and date printed on the ticket.
Raffles and sweepstakes are popular money-making efforts. Missouri law is clear, however, concerning which groups may legally sponsor these promotions.
In 1998 Missouri voters adopted a constitutional amendment allowing raffles and sweepstakes to be sponsored by groups recognized under federal law as charitable or religious.
Games of skill, no-purchase-necessary games
Missourians may legally participate in games or contests of skill or chance where no consideration is required to be eligible for a prize. Many fast-food restaurants offer no-purchase-necessary games in which consumers can obtain free tickets without a purchase.
Missouri residents may participate in contests or buy lottery tickets in other states if the tickets are not bought in Missouri.
Internet gambling in Missouri
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 operations to offer Internet gambling to Missouri residents.
Consumers are often contacted by “lottery hustlers” by phone, mail or email, who tell them they've won an international lottery drawing. These lottery solicitations violate U.S. law and are almost always scams. The con artist may ask for a check up front to cover tax obligations, or for bank account information to “deposit winnings.” In addition, some lottery hustlers send official-looking bank or cashier's checks to victims, asking them to cash the check and send back a portion for taxes. The original check then bounces, and the victim has lost money. Each year Americans lose millions to these scams, which may claim to be Canadian, U.K., Spanish or other international lotteries.
A foreign lottery is one gamble you don't want any part of.