Responsible Gambling in Missouri

Missouri offers several types of legal gambling, including the Missouri Lottery and the various games at the state’s many riverboat casinos. Lawmakers are also considering adding sports betting to the list of legal gambling options. While gambling is a great source of entertainment for Missouri adults, for some it can be a problem, which is why it is so important to know how to gamble responsibly.

While many are able to gamble as a fun recreational activity, some take it too far. However, Missourians have a number of resources to help them learn about responsible gambling. There are also many ways to identify, prevent and get help with problem gambling, either for yourself or for someone close to you.

If you are in Missouri and have an interest in gambling, you’ve come to the right place to learn about how to gamble responsibly and to find resources to help with problem gambling.

What is responsible gambling?

“Responsible gambling” is a clear enough phrase, but it may not immediately be apparent what makes gambling responsible. Essentially, responsible gambling is a series of behaviors that aim to ensure gambling does not adversely affect one’s financial or personal life. Being aware of spending limits and staying away from potentially self-destructive actions while gambling are examples of responsible gambling.

Within the gambling industry, “responsible gambling” is a policy that governs all sorts of best practices for those who provide legal gambling options. That is to say, responsible gambling isn’t just something gamblers need to be mindful of, but something casinos and other gambling providers must be conscious of, as well.

It’s important for the providers to follow certain guidelines and initiatives that help them make gambling an enjoyable and positive activity. Following such guidelines also helps casinos, the Missouri Lottery and other gambling providers in their efforts to prevent gambling from becoming problematic or even destructive to those taking part.

That is to say, responsible gambling represents a fundamental assumption for those who are licensed to provide legal gambling in Missouri. Indeed, such providers have to follow certain responsible gambling guidelines in order to keep their licenses to operate. It only follows, then, that individuals should also hold themselves to similar guidelines when they gamble.

Responsible gambling guidelines for Missouri gamblers

For gamblers in Missouri, practicing responsible gambling means staying within certain parameters while wagering. Many who enjoy gambling manage to do this without much thought, always keeping gambling in perspective and not allowing it to become problematic. Others, though, need to be more conscious about what they are doing in order to ensure they gamble responsibly.

Here is a checklist all gamblers can review and follow to help them keep gambling from having a negative impact on themselves or others:

  • Keep close track of how much money you spend when you gamble.
  • Set limits on how much money you spend gambling.
  • Set limits on how much time you spend gambling.
  • When you win money gambling, avoid the temptation to “let it ride” and continue gambling longer than planned.
  • When you lose money gambling, avoid the temptation to “chase your loss” and try to win back money and get even.
  • Never gamble with money that you need for other essential items such as food, gas, bills and other necessities.
  • Never gamble when feeling anxiety, stress or depression (don’t treat gambling as an “escape” from real-life concerns).
  • Always be willing to reach out for help should gambling become a problem for you or your loved ones.

Responsible gambling guidelines for Missouri gambling providers

As noted, gambling providers need to follow responsible gambling guidelines, too. Missouri casinos (for example) not only have to make sure their games are fair and that their patrons can gamble safely, but they also need to be proactive about informing patrons about responsible gambling and creating conditions where they can gamble responsibly in Missouri.

Here’s another checklist for actions Missouri gambling providers should take to promote responsible gambling:

  • Post accurate odds and other essential information about games so players know the associated risks.
  • Give patrons information and tangible recommendations about responsible gambling, including how to locate resources to learn more and to help with problem gambling.
  • Provide players ways to self-exclude from gambling and ensure those who do so are not able to gamble.
  • Educate staff about how to recognize signs of problem gambling.
  • Do not allow those who are underage, drunk or impaired to gamble.
  • Do not advertise gambling in a way that glamorizes degenerate or destructive behavior, and never use marketing to target problem gamblers.

What is problem gambling?

A poll by the National Council on Problem Gambling places the number of Missouri adults who engage in problem gambling at 2.2%. That would mean more than 100,000 people in the Show-Me State who need help keeping their gambling habits healthy.

Problem gambling can be particularly insidious because it doesn’t always produce observable effects, say, the way alcohol or drug addiction might. Instead, the external indicators of a problem might only be visible to the person or bank account. Even so, there are a few signs you can look for that can signal gambling has become a problem for someone.

If you see a loved one or friend exhibiting some of the following behaviors, it might be worthy of some concern:

  • Gambling is everywhere: No matter the occasion or topic, gambling seems to enter the conversation when this person is nearby. People may talk about gambling and what happened on their most recent trip to a casino, for instance. You may even notice the trend in their app usage or television viewing. If there’s always something gambling going on, the person may be too involved with it.
  • Odd financial issues: If a person who usually has plenty of money is suddenly asking for loans, applying for more credit cards or suffering utility outages due to nonpayment, something is going wrong. If you happen to share finances with an afflicted person, you may also notice that certain accounts seem to be less funded than they normally are.
  • Personality shifts: Damaging losses cannot help but affect problem gamblers’ mentalities. They may experience a host of negative emotions on a regular basis, and it’s impossible to hide the effects of that battle forever. If someone close to you has gone from calm to irritable, patient to explosive or happy to morose, there may be reason to worry.
  • Lying and/or stealing. Along with the personality shifts, you may also notice some shifty or downright criminal behavior. People may lie about the frequency or outcomes of their trips to gambling venues. They may even deny going to the casino or track at all. You might also notice cash going missing, or find keepsakes and other objects of value disappearing. These behaviors might be especially jarring because the person had been previously trustworthy.
  • Expressions of guilt. If people mention that they are regretting a decision to go to a Missouri gambling location, it could be an indicator of a bigger problem. After all, if you are gambling responsibly, then losing the money should have no effect on you, or at least not to the point where you are lamenting your decision well after the fact.

To be clear, a person who expresses one of these signs does not necessarily have a gambling problem. Even if someone has all of these symptoms, it’s not sufficient for a diagnosis, and we are not qualified to certify whether someone is in trouble or not. What is important is that you be aware of these behaviors as red flags of a deeper issue, and that you pay closer attention to anyone displaying these kinds of troubles.

You can also use this list of signs of problem gambling to assess yourself. As hard as it can be to recognize someone else is suffering from problem gambling, sometimes those who fall prey to it have difficulty recognizing they have a problem, too.

Resources for responsible and problem gambling in Missouri

Those in Missouri seeking information about responsible gambling and/or help with problem gambling have several places to go. Here are a few of the state-level resources available.

Missouri Department of Mental Health

The Missouri Department of Mental Health oversees a variety of addiction services in the state, including compulsive gambling and treatment services administered by the Division of Behavioral Health.

The DBH provides outpatient treatment services for compulsive gamblers and their families all over Missouri. Those in need who meet the admission criteria can work with trained counselors free of charge. Fees from Missouri casinos help pay for the services.

There are around a dozen gambling treatment centers located throughout the state. Click here for a list of active centers and contact information for each.

Missouri Alliance to Curb Problem Gambling

The Missouri Alliance to Curb Problem Gambling website provides a number of links to various gambling-related resources.

Among the information is an invitation to call the toll-free helpline 1-888-BETSOFF to speak with a counselor and/or be put in touch with area treatment facilities. Counselors can be reached by email as well at [email protected].

The site also contains informational videos and ways to obtain awareness materials like brochures and posters to place in businesses, schools and offices.

Missouri Gaming Association

The Missouri Gaming Association sponsors a number of programs and initiatives designed to promote responsible gambling in Missouri and help those affected by problem gambling.

The MGA website includes numerous links to programs, including those listed above.

There you can also find information and links regarding the Midwest Conference on Problem Gambling & Substance Abuse, an annual conference for experts and treatment providers.

There is also information about the Project 21 Scholarship program that invites Missouri students to submit essays, videos and posters designed to educate and inform about the dangers of underage gambling, with the winning submissions receiving college scholarships.

Missouri Statewide Voluntary Self-Exclusion Program

The Missouri Gaming Commission administers a statewide self-exclusion program for those who wish to exclude themselves from being able to gamble at any of the state’s riverboat casinos.

Also called the Problem Gambling List, the program invites individuals to submit a completed application to exclude themselves from gambling at the state’s licensed casinos.

Names of those who enter the program are sent to the casinos, which may impose restrictions upon them, including denying them access to the facilities. The casinos will also stop sending any marketing materials to those taking part in the program.

Responsible gambling and the Missouri Lottery

The Missouri Lottery is involved in promoting responsible gambling in the state, as well. The lottery helps market the state’s gambling helpline and other problem gambling awareness activities.

The Missouri Lottery website contains information about playing the lottery responsibly as well as about problem gambling and where to get help. In 2013, the Missouri Lottery became one of the first state lotteries to sponsor a self-exclusion tool.

Missouri Lottery’s Self-Exclusion Program

The Missouri Lottery offers a program by which individuals can submit an agreement to exclude themselves from being able to collect any lottery winnings of $600 or more. According to the Missouri Lottery, entering into the program reduces individuals’ incentive to play the lottery by denying them the ability to redeem their winnings when doing so requires them to visit Lottery headquarters or regional offices.

For players entering the program, the Missouri Lottery will also endeavor to remove those individuals from mailing lists so they will not receive promotional materials.

National gambling resources

There are many national organizations as well where Missourians can get information about responsible gambling and help with problem gambling. These include the following:

  • National Council on Problem Gambling: This national organization supports numerous programs and services for those whom problem gambling affects, including those in Missouri. Among its services is the National Problem Gambling Helpline Network, which you can reach at 800-522-4700, a 24/7 toll-free help line. Representatives will then help you find local services to get assistance.
  • Gamblers Anonymous: This organization functions similarly to the famous Alcoholics Anonymous by featuring a 12-step self-help program for individuals to follow. There are also weekly support meetings and a toll-free 24/7 hotline at 855-222-5542. Click the above link and enter details to find meeting times and locations in your area.
  • Gam-Anon: This organization also uses a fellowship model, but it focuses on delivering support to family members and friends of problem gamblers.
  • Gamtalk: Finally, Gamtalk is an online discussion forum that enables problem gamblers and those affected by problem gambling to connect and provide support to one another.

Importance of responsible gambling 

Gambling can be a fun activity for adults. Trips to the casino with friends can produce lots of great experiences and memories, and of course, the thrill of winning money while playing games or the lottery can be special, too. But gambling can be a source of pain and misery to those who fail to understand and appreciate the risks and are not able to practice moderation.

Anyone who gambles, even just occasionally, needs to be aware of the importance of gambling responsibly. It is also important to remain vigilant when it comes to recognizing the signs of problem gambling, whether in oneself or in others. As described above, there are many ways to get help if gambling ever becomes a negative force in your life or in the life of someone close to you. Feel free to bookmark this page as a reference.