Missouri’s laws governing horse racing are a classic example of the impossible “Catch-22” situation popularized by the American novelist Joseph Heller in his book by the same name.
The state legalized betting on horse races in 1984, but only at racetracks. Since there are no racetracks in Missouri, that means residents have no legal way to bet on horse races without leaving the state.
While the intention of the measure may have been to encourage the construction of a racetrack in the state, that hasn’t happened. The main hitch is that prospective operators would be excluded from offering casino gaming at their establishments.
That’s because Missouri limits casino gambling to licensed excursion gambling boats and floating facilities. It also allows charitable bingo games, and the state has an official lottery to fund education.
The Show-Me State was once home to many horse racing tracks, according to a 2020 Arch City Media article that traced the first known track in St. Louis to 1767.
“In the following years, up to 20 different racetracks sprung up around the city. … A local jockey club seems to have been formed in the 1820s,” it said.
The racing boom ended quickly after organized betting was made illegal in the state in 1905. Delmar Race Track was the last holdout, closing by 1911 following police raids and arrests.
Today, racing fans who live near neighboring states can find relief by driving across the border, since all neighboring states save Tennessee offer both live racing and betting. But online betting on horse races is prohibited, and none of the providers of advance-deposit wagering (ADW) websites allow Missouri residents to open accounts.
Fun fact about horse racing in Missouri
The high point for horse racing in the state occurred with the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair Handicap, which offered a stunning $50,000 purse – more than 10 times the $4,500 purse for the Kentucky Derby that year. Local brewery owner Otto Stifel won the race with his horse Colonial Girl, according to the Arch City Media article.
Horse Race Tracks in Missouri
Nor are there any live racing venues in the state.
There are currently no legal horse betting options in Missouri.
Missouri does not have any horse racing tracks. Off-track betting locations (OTBs) are also not allowed. The residents have to leave the state to bet on horses legally.
No, you don’t. All horse racing betting is prohibited in Missouri.