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In the United States, most types of gambling require participants and players to be 21 years of age. As it is the legal drinking age in America, the number also works well with gambling, especially for land-based establishments. And in the primary gambling centers of Nevada (Las Vegas and Reno) and New Jersey (Atlantic City), the age of 21 is considered set in stone.

However, one Nevada lawmaker proposed that the age for gambling in his state be reduced to 18. Republican Assemblyman Jim Wheeler wants to boost a struggling industry by allowing players to gamble at the age of 18, and the bill would also allow casino workers to be 18 years old. The last time the idea was floated was in 2008 by several legislators, but it never came up again until 2017.

Assembly Bill 86 was pre-filed on January 27 and immediately referred to the Committee on Judiciary, where it remains until momentum for movement can be found.

Pros of Lowering Legal Gambling Age

The gambling industry in Nevada has been relatively stationary for the past several years. As consumers grapple with tough economic times and places like Las Vegas struggle to attract new gamblers, the industry could use a boost. It’s not to say that the state isn’t making money from gamblers, as casinos did win more than $11.25 billion from them in 2016, which was more than a one percent increase over the previous year. And the entirety of the casino industry, including food and accommodations, took in more than $25 billion in 2016, but the percentage of gambling win from that amount was a record low.

Lowering the gambling age would attract an entirely new demographic and millions of new customers and potential gamblers. Casinos would benefit from the wagering as well as the hotel rooms, food, beverage, and entertainment money being spent by those ranging from 18 to 21.

Many argue that men and women can serve in the military at the age of 18 in the United States, as well as vote and purchase cigarettes. While the national age limit for alcohol purchase and consumption remains at 21, Americans in their late teens can vote for government officials and die in war several years before they are allowed to place a sports bet or put $10 down on a blackjack hand. The law pertains to poker as well, as casinos in Nevada also require poker players to be 21.

Nevada would benefit from the gambling win, and the state budget would find some relief in tough times. As Nevada is no different from many states grappling with attracting new, substantive, and sustainable revenue, it could maximize its primary source of revenue while also offering new job opportunities to those 18 and over.

The poker industry would benefit as well. While many countries around the world already allow 18-year-olds to play, an age reduction in Nevada would also bring many new players into the poker rooms. Since Americans have very few online poker options these days, the widening of the live poker spectrum would benefit the industry and certainly entities like the World Series of Poker.

Finally, Nevada could follow the lead of many other states that already allow 18-year-olds in their gambling establishments. States like Minnesota, Idaho, Alaska, and Wyoming have the lower age limit, while other states allow the younger players to gambling in Indian-based casinos and in games like bingo, i.e. New York, Florida, Oklahoma, and California. Nevada could set a nationwide trend.

Cons of Lowering Legal Gambling Age

The cons are relatively simple but are relegated prominently and loudly by many consumer protection groups. Lowering the age for gambling in Nevada to 18 has the potential to drastically increase the number of gambling addicts and those who suffer significant and life-changing gambling losses. And in response to that increase, organizations that offer help for addictions will require more funding. Those groups will argue that the costs would far outweigh the benefits for the state.

Experts do not expect Wheeler’s bill to garner much support in the legislature, but the need for state revenue might have lawmakers give a fresh look to the bill as a potential remedy in tough times.

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Jennifer Newell

Jennifer has been a freelance writer in the poker industry for a decade. She left a full-time job with the World Poker Tour to tell the stories of poker. She now lives in St. Louis, writes about poker while pursuing other varied interests, and speaks her mind on Twitter… a lot.

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