The Missouri Constitution is clear when it comes to gambling. It clearly authorizes riverboat gambling on the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers only, which includes artificial spaces that contain water and are within 1000 feet of waters edge. See it here.

III Section 39(e). Riverboat gambling authorized on Missouri and Mississippi Rivers – boats in moats authorized. – The general assembly is authorized to permit upon the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers only, which shall include artificial spaces that contain water and that are within 1000 feet of the closest edge of the main channel of either of those rivers, lotteries, gift enterprises and games of chance to be conducted on excursion gambling boats and floating facilities.

Gambling devices that operate outside of these parameters are unconstitutional and illegal. Enter the growing problem of Video Lottery Terminals (VLT) – illegal gambling devices that have surged throughout the state at gas stations, fraternal organizations, and truck stops.

These are not licensed gaming facilities, nor are they within 1,000 feet of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers as the Constitution prescribes. It’s what makes them illegal and why the Missouri Highway Patrol has reportedly investigated at least 73 of these cases. We realize some have called this a gray area. It’s not. This is black market gambling showing up around neighborhoods all over the state. 

If the Missouri Legislature wants to legalize these machines, then it needs to first pass a joint resolution to let voters authorize a new gambling regimen. Then it can come back and write a new statutory framework around it, similar to the current Houx and Shaul legislation. 

At this point in the 2020 Legislative Session, the Shaul and Houx bills (HBs 2088 and 2030) are unconstitutional, misguided, and destined for multiple lawsuits should they pass.

United for Missouri will be scoring against these bills if they come to a vote.