While the general minimum legal gambling age in most of the United States is 21, things are actually more complex. The minimum age to participate in gambling activities in the US basically comes down to the specific state and the specific type of gambling activity.
Let us explore the US’s legal gambling age in more detail. The allure of the casino floor, the excitement of a winning hand, or the thrill of the slot machines are all synonymous with gambling in the U.S.
But who can legally partake? The gambling age varies across states and types of games, leading to some confusion. This article will clarify the legal gambling age across the United States and provide a state-by-state breakdown.
Legal Gambling Ages by State
Some states have one minimum age limit for all gambling activities that they offer. For instance, in Arizona, you must be 21 years of age or over to visit any casino, play bingo, play the lottery, or bet on horse races.
In other states, there are different legal age limits for different gambling pastimes. In Delaware, for example, you must be 21 years of age to participate in all legal gambling activities except for bingo, lotteries, and horse race betting, in which case the minimum legal age is 18.
For each type of gambling activity, you can find out the US legal gambling age broken down by the state in detail here.
Gambling Is Not Legal in Every State
It is worth mentioning that gambling activities are not legal in every state, and each gambling activity has a different legal status depending on the state laws.
For instance, online casinos and online sports betting are illegal in most states while horse race betting is legal in most states. Hawaii is the only state in which all gambling activities are illegal.
For the majority of land-based casinos in the US, you must be at least 21 years of age. However, there are exceptions. At some tribal casinos, the minimum age is 18, although that does not necessarily include all gambling activities on offer.
The minimum age is also 18 at some casino rooms where alcohol is not served. You can gamble at the age of 18 in California, Georgia, Idaho, Michigan, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Washington, but only at certain establishments.
As for the few states where online casinos are legal, you must be at least 21 years of age to access them.
In the majority of states where sports gambling is legal, the minimum age for placing bets is 21. However, there are some exceptions.
The minimum age for betting with sportsbooks is 18 in Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, and Virginia.
Also, be aware that horse race betting is not included under the general sports betting banner, so the minimum legal age for that gambling activity is different from other sports. Also, online fantasy sports betting is more commonly available to people who are 18 years of age and older.
The minimum legal age to play lotteries in the US is also state-dependent. In the vast majority of states, the minimum age is 18. In Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, and Louisiana, the minimum age is 21, while in Nebraska it is 19.
How Do Other Countries Compare?
While the minimum legal gambling age in the US is 21 for most gambling activities, in the majority of other countries in the world in which gambling is legal, the minimum age is 18. Of course, there are lots of variations, though.
In Oceania, the minimum legal age for most gambling activities is 18, except for in New Zealand where the age is 20 for visiting casinos. In Europe, most countries have a minimum age of 18, but some have legal age limits of 21 or 20.
In Malta, the minimum age is 25 for Maltese citizens. The same applies to Portuguese citizens in Portugal. In Asia, the legal gambling ages are more varied, but they are mostly minimum ages of 18 or 21. The same goes for Africa. Meanwhile, in South America, in every country where gambling activities are legal, the minimum age is 18.
Some gambling activities are available to people below the age of 18 in some countries. For instance, in the United Kingdom, you only have to be 16 years of age to play the National Lottery.
While the US generally has a higher age limit for gambling than other countries, the rules tend to follow suit with other laws. For instance, you must be 21 to drink alcohol in the US whereas you can legally consume alcohol at the age of 18 in the UK.
And US gambling laws are in the process of being debated and changed in various states. So, while the age limit is not a current factor, as gambling laws become more relaxed in several states, the age limit could change one day as well.
Can You Gamble at 18 in the U.S.?
In certain U.S. states, yes, you can legally gamble at the age of 18. However, this doesn’t apply to every type of gambling or across all states. Some states allow 18-year-olds to participate in specific forms of gambling, like bingo or the lottery, while other games, like slot machines or table games, may require the individual to be 21.
Do You Have to Be 21 to Gamble in the U.S.?
For many states and types of gambling, especially at commercial casinos, the required age is indeed 21. This age limit typically applies to casino games, poker rooms, and other forms of betting where alcohol is served. However, there are exceptions based on the state and the type of gambling activity.
Legal Gambling Age in the U.S. by State:
Given the extensive list of states, we will outline a few key examples here for brevity:
- Alabama: 19 for bingo, 21 for casinos.
- Alaska: 18 for charitable gaming like bingo and pull-tabs.
- Arizona: 21 for casinos and simulcast betting, 18 for lottery and OTB (off-track betting).
- California: Varied, 18-21 depending on the casino and the type of game. Many tribal casinos in California set a minimum age of 21 because they serve alcohol, but some allow 18-year-olds.
- Florida: 18 for poker, bingo, lottery, and pari-mutuel betting. 21 for slot machines and other casino games.
- Nevada: 21 for all forms of gambling.
- New Jersey: 21 for casinos, poker, and sports betting. 18 for lottery, bingo, and racing.
- New York: 18 for lottery and racing, 21 for casinos.
- Texas: 18 for lottery and pari-mutuel betting.
- Washington: 18 for bingo, lottery, poker, and certain casinos. 21 for other casinos.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, and it’s crucial to consult local regulations or the specific gambling establishment you plan to visit in any state. Some states, like Utah, prohibit all forms of gambling, regardless of age.
The legal gambling age in the U.S. varies widely based on state and activity. While certain states and games may permit individuals as young as 18 to participate, many require players to be at least 21, especially where alcohol is served.
As with all legal matters, it’s essential to familiarize yourself with local regulations and rules. Always gamble responsibly and be aware of the age requirements in your respective location.