Nevada Assemblyman Proposes Dropping Gambling Age to 18

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People in the United States who are 18-years old can drive, can purchase cigarettes, can go to war, can vote…18-year olds are considered adults. There are very few things 18-year olds are not allowed to do. They can’t be President of the United States (though an exception was made recently to allow a child in the Oval Office), they generally can’t rent a car, they can’t buy alcohol, and in most places, they can’t gamble.

One lawmaker in Nevada wants to change the last thing on that list. On Friday, January 27th, Nevada Assemblyman Jim Wheeler introduced AB86, a bill which would lower the state’s legal gambling age from 21 to 18. This Monday, the bill was read for the first time in Committee on Judiciary.

The legal gambling age in most states is 21, though in some states that age is dropped to 18 if no alcohol is served on the casino floor. Additionally some Native American casinos have a minimum age as low as 18 or 19, though that is much rarer than it once was.

Personal anecdote time. The summer after I turned 18 – 23 years ago (ugh) – my best friend and I spent a weekend in Wisconsin Dells, known for its water parks. In nearby Baraboo, there was (and still is) the Ho-Chunk Casino. As it was a Native American casino, the legal age at the time was just 18, so my friend and I decided to give it a shot. Other than knowing the basic rules of blackjack, we had no idea what we were doing and my $50 quickly dwindled to nothing at the $5 tables. It was a fun, if short, stay. Also, though I was but 18-years old at the time, my life was not ruined because I lost some money gambling.

No reasons were given for Assemblyman Wheeler’s desire to adjust the gambling age from 21 to 18, but one could make a few guesses. As mentioned previously, 18 is the legal age to do most things in the United States, including being handed a rifle and going off to war, so many would argue that if the federal government thinks someone is old enough for that, a state should be so kind as to feel they are old enough to put a few quarters in a slot machine. Additionally, lowering the gambling age would obviously increase the gambling population in Nevada (for both locals and visitors, of course), which would, in turn, boost the state’s gaming revenue.

Perhaps the most complicated part of allowing 18 to 20-year olds to gamble is that the drinking age would still be 21. As anyone who has been to Las Vegas knows (or anyone who has seen any movie or television show set in Vegas knows), alcohol is abundant in casinos, including the casino floor. Right now, cocktail servers know that anyone gambling is at least 21 (generally), so there is no need to question anyone when they request a drink. If the gambling age were to be lowered, things would get more difficult, as now servers would probably have to start carding people, slowing service down and generally making their jobs more of a pain.

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