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Legal Gambling Age in the United States

shape1 Legal Gambling Age in the United States

Almost every major milestone in our lives is conditioned by an age requirement. To get married or go to war without your parents’ permission, you have to be 18. Before you can drive, you have to turn 16, with the exception of a few states where you can get a driver’s license at the ripe age of 14. All across the US, people have to wait until they are 21 before they can drink alcohol.

There are similar guidelines in place for people who want to try their luck at gambling. There’s a legal gambling age set by each individual state, pertaining to gambling in land-based casinos, as well as online establishments. 

The legal gambling age varies from one state to another. Generally speaking, you have to be at least 18 before you can spend your money at a casino. However, in some states, you have to wait until you’re 21.

The most reliable way to find out what the legal age limit is in any particular state is to ask the casino personnel. If the age policy is not displayed clearly inside the casino, talk to someone who works there. A customer support agent would be the best option, but anyone working at the tables will do. 

The same is true if you’re looking to become a patron of an online casino. Most likely, you will be able to find your answer in the FAQ section. If not, feel free to contact the customer support team via email or live chat. We’re sure they will be more than happy to help you out.

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Reasons Behind Legal Gambling Age

Age limits are there for a number of reasons. Primarily, their purpose is to prevent young and immature individuals from taking part in gambling activities. Most people would agree that letting a 12-year-old drive a car would be unwise. A vast majority of children at that age do not have the level of maturity and cognitive development required for such a demanding task.

You could argue that the same is true when it comes to letting a 17-year-old play roulette. Even adults often find it hard to bet responsibly and wisely, so it is easy to see how a teenager might struggle with the concept.

Individuals can begin gambling legally in most states once they’ve had their eighteenth birthday. That said, there are some states that push that limit further — to 21. This makes sense, considering this is the drinking age across the US, and these two activities often go hand in hand.

It should be noted that the law is always subject to change. Whatever the current legal gambling age might be in your state, it is a good idea to check with the casino before engaging in gambling. If you find the idea of asking a dealer at a poker table if you’re old enough to gamble a bit embarrassing, you might find it easier to call ahead. 

When it comes to online casinos, a quick look at the FAQ section should give you the answers you’re looking for. If not, you can always start a conversation with a customer service representative through live chat. 

Keep in mind that most online casinos will allow you to gamble at the age of 18. This is because the majority of them are based outside the US, which means they don’t have to obey the law of your particular state.

In some parts of the country, gambling, much like drinking alcohol, is considered a rite of passage. Once people turn 18 or 21, depending on the laws of their state, they head down to the nearest casino and enjoy their first legal gambling session. 

Gambling Age by State

USA States map Vegas Slots

As is the case with most controversial topics, there are many different opinions on how gambling in the US should be regulated. It seems as though there are as many requests to lower the legal gambling age, as there are to ban the activity entirely.

In states that allow gambling in the US, you must be of a certain age to take part in it. However, thanks to state law, each state retains the right to set its own age restrictions.

So, how old do you have to be to gamble in your state? In the table below, we’ve included the minimum legal gambling age by type, where applicable. We’ve also included states where these forms of gambling are banned completely at the time of writing this post. 

The denomination N/A (not applicable) means that the state in question does not allow the particular type of gambling presented in that column.

 

U.S. State Lottery  Parimutuel Betting  Casinos 
Alabama N/A 19 19
Alaska N/A N/A N/A
Arizona 21 21 21
Arkansas 18 18 21
California 18 18 18 – 21
Colorado 18 18 21
Connecticut 18 18 21
Delaware 18 18 21
District of Columbia 18 N/A N/A
Florida 18 18 21
Georgia 18 N/A 18
Hawaii N/A N/A N/A
Idaho 18 18 18
Illinois 18 18 21
Indiana 18 18 21
Iowa 21 21 21
Kansas 18 21 21
Kentucky 18 18 N/A
Louisiana 21 18 21
Maine 18 18 21
Maryland 18 18 21
Massachusetts  18 18 21
Michigan 18 18 18 – 21
Minnesota 18 18 18 – 21
Mississippi N/A N/A 21
Missouri 18 18 21
Montana 18 18 18
Nebraska 19 18 21
Nevada N/A 21 21
New Hampshire  18 18 21
New Jersey 18 18 21
New Mexico 18 18 21
New York 18 18 18 – 21
North Carolina 18 N/A 21
North Dakota N/A 21 21
Ohio 18 18 21
Oklahoma 18 18 18 – 21
Oregon 18 18 18 – 21
Pennsylvania 18 18 21
Rhode Island 18 18 18
South Carolina 18 N/A 21
South Dakota 18 18 21
Tennessee 18 18 N/A
Texas 18 21 21
Utah N/A N/A N/A
Vermont 18 N/A N/A
Virginia 18 18 N/A
Washington 18 18 18 – 21
West Virginia 18 18 21
Wisconsin 18 18 21
Wyoming N/A 18 18

Legality of Gambling Through Years

In pre-revolutionary America, New Orleans was the gambling capital of the nation. Gambling soon became illegal, though, as part of religious revivals during the Second and Third Great Awakening. More than 200 years later, around the middle of the 19th century, the gambling capital of the United States moved to San Francisco, California. But the games were forced underground as the Sunshine State began strengthening its gambling laws.

Gambling remained illegal across most of the nation for a long time. Even though Las Vegas is now considered the gambling capital of the world, Nevada only made gambling legal in 1931. At the time, state officials believed that was a smart way to improve the economy in the area. It is fair to say that even they couldn’t predict just how right they would turn out to be.

It took other states some time to follow suit. The first one among them was Southern Maryland that became popular for its slot machines soon after legalizing them in 1949. The next city to become a major tourist destination thanks to gambling was Atlantic City that made gambling legal in 1977.

The first reservation to open its borders to commercial gambling was the Seminole Tribe in 1979. After that, a trend was established and other reservations followed. Parimutuel betting and lotteries soon became legal in other parts of the country as well.

The rise in betting on sports events soon became a thorn in the government’s side. In 1992, Congress passed the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act in an attempt to stifle it. The act was eventually deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

Online gambling experienced a massive expansion in the early 2000s. However, under the Federal Wire Act of 1961, it was still illegal for international and even interstate transactions to be made. Extra penalties were brought by the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006.

Only a few states still allow online casinos to operate within their borders, and the rules are dependent on the games they offer. The following table presents the legality of three types of online gambling per state. Only the ten states that allow some form of online gambling are displayed in the table.

 

U.S. State Online Casino Online Poker Online Sports Betting
Delaware Yes Yes No
Indiana No No Yes
Iowa No No Yes
Nevada No Yes Yes
New Hampshire No No Yes
New Jersey Yes Yes Yes
Oregon No No Yes
Pennsylvania Yes Yes Yes
Rhode Island No No Yes
West Virginia No No Yes

Legal Gambling Age in USA FAQs

Which states allow gambling at the age of 18?

Eleven states currently have a legal gambling age of 18. These are: California Florida Georgia Idaho Michigan Minnesota Montana Oklahoma Oregon Rhode Island Washington

What happens if someone under 21 gambles in Las Vegas?

Any person who chooses to try their luck in a Vegas casino before they turn 21 is committing a criminal offense. If convicted, this person could face up to six months in jail.

Can you be on the casino floor in Vegas if you’re under 21?

You have to be at least 21 to enter a casino. Any person under the legal gambling age will not be allowed within the casino area.

30 Apr 2020 | Adam Shaw | 2 Comments

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