A Brief History of US Gambling Age Requirements


Gambling in the United States still has its skeptics. Many people have different opinions on how it should be regulated. As a result, it seems like lawmakers are always dealing with a new request to either legalize or restrict gambling.

US gambling age requirements
US gambling age requirements

In places where it is legal to gamble in the US, you must be of age to take part in the associated activities. But thanks to state law, every state has its own legal age to gamble.

Today, as reported by Marina Turea at OnlineCasinoGems, the legal ages for people in the US range between 16 and 21. 

Here are the minimum ages to gamble in the US

Minimum Age To Gamble In The US

StateLottery Legal AgeParimutuel Betting Legal AgeCasinos Legal AgeCharity Bingo/Pull Tabs Legal Age
Alabama (AL)N/A1919Underline/19
Alaska (AK)N/AN/AN/A19/21
Arizona (AZ)21212118
Arkansas (AR)18182118
California (CA)181818 – 21 (varies)18
Colorado (CO)18182118
Connecticut (CT)18182118
Delaware (DE)18182118
District of Columbia (DC)18N/AN/A18
Florida (FL)18182118
Georgia (GA)18N/A18 (cruises)18
Hawaii (HI)N/AN/AN/AN/A
Idaho (ID)18181818/18
Illinois (IL)18182118/18
Indiana (IN)18182118
Iowa (IA)21212121
Kansas (KS)18212118
Kentucky (KY)1818N/A18/18
Louisiana (LA)21182118
Maine (ME)18182116 bingo
Maryland (MD)18182118
Massachusetts (MA)181821 (casino ships)18
Michigan (MI)181818 – 21 (varies)18
Minnesota (MN)181818 – 21 (varies)18
Mississippi (MS)N/AN/A21Underline/18
Missouri (MO)18182116
Montana (MT)18181818/18
Nebraska (NE)19182118
Nevada (NV)N/A212121
New Hampshire (NH)18182118/18
New Jersey (NJ)18182118
New Mexico (NM)181821No age limit
New York (NY)181818 – 21 (varies)No age limit
North Carolina (NC)18N/A21No age limit
North Dakota (ND)N/A18 track/21 OTB21No age limit
Ohio (OH)18182118
Oklahoma (OK)181818-2116 tribe – 18/18 pull tab
Oregon (OR)181818 – 21 (varies)18 bingo
Pennsylvania (PA)18182118
Puerto Rico (PR)18181818
Rhode Island (RI)18181818
South Carolina (SC)18N/A21 (casino ship)21
South Dakota (SD)18182118
Tennessee  (TN)1818N/A18
Texas (TX)182121 (casino ship_Under 18 must have parent
Vermont (VT)18N/AN/A18
Virgin Islands (VI)182121N/A
Virginia (VA)1818N/A18
Washington (WA)181818 – 21 (varies)18
West Virginia (WVA)18182118
Wisconsin (WI)18182118
Wyoming (WY)N/A181818/18

Brief History Of Gambling In The US

The first instances of gambling in the US can be traced all the back to Colonial Times. With no large-scale restrictions in place, attitudes towards it depended on the community.

By the 1680s, an emerging gentry in Virginia cemented their economic status through their iron grip on gambling in horse racing. Their heavy bets demonstrated their courage and skill and promoted a sense of shared values and consciousness among the gentry. It was this group that came up with elaborate rules and established a code on how to much to bet. 

Lotteries were also held in pre-revolutionary America. New Orleans then became the nation’s gambling capital, but gambling became illegal due to religious revivals that comprised the Second Great Awakening and the Third Great Awakening.

200 years later, in the 1850s, San Francisco overtook New Orleans as the gambling capital of the United States. However, California gradually strengthened its laws on gambling and so the games went underground.

Gambling remained illegal across many of the states for a very long time. In fact, Nevada only legalized gambling in 1931, after the Great Depression. This was because the state officials saw it as a way to bring economic relief to the area.

It took a few years before others followed suit. Southern Maryland became popular for its slot machines which operated legally there between 1949 and 1968. In 1977, Atlantic City made gambling legal, turning it into a major tourist destination.

The Seminole tribe opened the first reservation-based commercial gambling in 1979. This began a trend that would be followed by other reservations, seeing lotteries and some parimutuel betting legalized in other areas of the country.

Louisiana legalized riverboat casinos in the 1990s along with Illinois and other US states.

Detroit legalized gambling in 1996, creating an opportunity for casino growth.

However, the government put a hold to the rise in gambling on sporting events by passing the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992. The Supreme Court eventually overturned this law as the court deemed it was unconstitutional for the federal government to prohibit states from legalizing it under state law.

The early 2000s saw a rise in online gambling, but the Federal Wire Act of 1961 meant that it was still illegal for interstate and international transactions to take place. The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 brought in extra penalties.

Today, the only states that allow online gambling are:

  • Delaware
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • West Virginia

And even then, the rules depend on the game:

StateLegal Online CasinoLegal Online PokerLegal Online Sports Betting
New HampshireNoNoYes
New JerseyYesYesYes
Rhode IslandNoNoYes
West VirginiaNoNoYes

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1 Comment

  1. They busted some online gambling and poker sites for cheating back in around 2006-2008.

    I remember I was playing Texas Hold em online, and bet up my four dueces, only to be beat by four sevens. Seemed hinkey, so I quit online. A few weeks later they busted the dirtbags.

    I did win 50k on a five dollar scratch ticket. They (state thieves) skimmed 15k off the top for taxes. Still, a $5 bet, great return. Then I quit altogether, four years ago.

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