Gambling Ages Around The World

abroad 1It’s a strange thing when you think about it, but the legal age to gamble is different depending on where in the world you are. You can do so at the age of 16 in the United Kingdom, for example, if you want to but lottery tickets, but you’ll need to be 18 to bet on a horse racing or football. Meanwhile in the majority of states in the US the minimum age for gambling is 21.

It’s not even set in stone in specific countries, with Canada being an example of one where it’s 18 in some provinces and territories but 19 in others. The reasoning behind why a country picks a given age isn’t easy to understand, with many of them being arbitrarily chosen. Here we’ll look at some key examples from around the world and explore what it all means.

Why The Gambling Age Is Important

21 warningWe could discuss the morals of legal gambling ages on this page, but truth be told that is something rather complex. Instead we’re going to look at the more literal side of things about why it matters. By that we mean that if you don’t know what the legal age to gamble is in a given country then you might be surprised or even shocked to be told you’re not old enough somewhere.

It’s not uncommon for British people to head to Las Vegas in the United States of America, as an example, and attempt to enter the casino floor when they’re 19 or 20. In America there is an extremely strict approach to the legal age for gambling, with casinos knowing that they could face high fines or even lose their licence to operate if someone underage is allowed to gamble there.

That’s why everyone gets asked for identification in Las Vegas, even old aged pensioners. It might seem odd, but casinos have to protect themselves and with people coming from all over the world to place some bets in the world’s most famous gambling city, security guards can’t simply depend on those people knowing that they’re not of a legal age to take part in the fun of Sin City.

Of course, the same is also true. If you’re from New Zealand, where the legal age to gamble in a casino is 20, and you find yourself in London then it’s handy to know that you can pop into a casino and sit down for a game of blackjack or a spin of the roulette wheel and it’s entirely legal for you to do so. Keeping on the right side of the law is always handy as a visitor to a foreign country.

The Standard Age

Responsible Gamling 18In the overwhelming majority of countries around the world the legal age for gambling is 18. From the Cayman Islands to Greenland, Jamaica to Aruba, 18 is the age that most countries have settled on as being an ok one for people to bet from. The one question that is difficult to answer is why, exactly, 18 was chosen as the age at which gambling is seen as ok in most places.

One school of thought is that, in most countries, people are 18 when they leave school and are therefore considered to be adults. Given that Alexander The Great conquered Maedi at the age of 16 and Charles Algernon Parsons invented something that would develop into the automobile at the age of 15, there are reasons to disagree. Even so, 18 is widely accepted as being adulthood.

Now that we have a vague understanding of why knowing the gambling age is useful and the manner in which 18 has been accepted as the legal age for betting in most countries, let’s have a look at some specific examples.

The United Kingdom

uk union jack flagIt’s fair to say that the UK’s approach to gambling is a complicated one. If you’re under 18, for example, then you’re allowed to enter a bingo club but you’re not actually allowed to play bingo. People under the age of 16 can work in a bingo club but can’t supply anyone with the items necessary to play bingo, nor can they operating, service or clean bingo equipment.

Similarly, people aged 16 can buy tickets for the National Lottery and other lotteries, buy and play scratch cards and play the Football Pools, but they’re unable to place a bet on a football match, horse race or other event inside a bookmaker’s until they’re 18. Anyone over 16 but under 18 who takes part in a gambling activity other than those listed are committing a criminal offence.

The United States Of America

united states flag and welcome signThe federal system of government in the United States of America means that the various states are able to decide upon their own legal age for various activities, including gambling. The majority of American states have opted for a minimum legal age of 21, with the home of Las Vegas, Nevada, being such a state.

However there are exceptions to the rules in many of these states. It’s possible for someone aged over 18 to bet on a horse race or to buy a lottery ticket in some states, for example, with the likes of Illinois, Arkansas, Kansas, Maine, New York, and Pennsylvania all fitting into this category. Iowa, Idaho, Minnesota and Wyoming, meanwhile, have the gambling age set at 18 for everything.

Things are somewhat more confused in America by the presence of Native American reservations. These are areas where the Native Americans can set their own rules and often allow people to gamble on their property from the age of 18. In Michigan, however, you must be 32-years-old before you can play poker in a designated poker room.

China

china flagTraditional gambling of most kinds is completely outlawed in China. The only exception to this is lotteries that are run by the state, which can be played by citizens that are over the age of 21. Underground betting is common throughout the majority of China, with its illegal nature meaning that there is no specific legal age for participants to get involved in.

China is also a slightly more complex area to consider because of the various regions, such as Hong Kong and Macau, that are given special administrative powers. The history go legalised gambling in Macau can be traced back to the middle of the 19th century and it is now one of the most lucrative casino cities in the world. The minimum age to gamble there is 21.

Countries Where It’s Complicated

Country Legal Age For Most Gambling Exceptions
United Kingdom 18 Lotteries, scratch cards, football pools - 16
New Zealand 20 Horse racing & Instant Kiwi - 18
Estonia 16 21 for casino betting
Iceland 18 15 for lotteries
Portugal 18 Some casinos are limited to 25 and over
Sweden 18 The minimum age for casino betting is 20
Philippines 18 21 for casino betting
Niger 18 Some casinos are limited to 21 and over
Canada 19 Some provinces and territories set the age at 18
US Virgin Islands 18 Casinos are limited to 21-year-olds and over

As mentioned elsewhere in this piece, the legal age to gamble in most countries across the planet is 18. In some countries there are different ages depending on what it is that you would like to place bets on, so here we’ll have a look at those countries in particular.

There are many countries around the world where gambling is illegal in its entirety, with examples being Cuba, the British Virgin Islands, Sudan and Mauritania. In Malawi, meanwhile, the legal age for gambling is 5 (five) and is no lower because younger children ‘do not understand the meaning of money.)

The Federated States of Micronesia follows a similar pattern to that of the United States, insomuch as the various states are allowed to dictate their own legal age for gambling. In Yap and Chuuk it is entirely illegal.

Countries Where The Minimum Age Is Not 18

golf foil age balloons

Here is a list of the countries where the minimum age for gambling is not 18. If gambling is illegal there then the country will also be on this list. That means that if a country is not on this list nor in the list where the age is complicated then there either is no gambling there or the legal age for gambling of the country in question is 18.

  • Belgium - 21
  • Greece - 21
  • Jersey - 21
  • Afghanistan - Illegal
  • Armenia - 21
  • Bahrain - Illegal
  • Brunei Darussalam - Illegal
  • Mainland China - Illegal
  • India - 21
  • Indonesia - Illegal
  • Japan - 20
  • Lebanon - 21
  • Macau - 21
  • Malaysia - 21
  • Maldives - Illegal
  • Pakistan - Illegal
  • Qatar - Illegal Saudi Arabia - Illegal
  • Singapore - 21
  • South Korea - 19
  • Syria - Illegal
  • Taiwan - 21
  • Thailand - Illegal
  • Vietnam - 21
  • Egypt - 21
  • Eritrea - Illegal
  • Ethiopia - Illegal
  • Libya - Illegal
  • Malawi - 5
  • Mauritania - Illegal
  • Namibia - 21
  • Nigeria - 20
  • Somalia - Illegal
  • Sudan - Illegal
  • Bahamas - 21
  • British Virgin Islands - Illegal
  • Cuba - Illegal
  • Saint Kitts and Nevis - 21
  • United Arab Emirates - 21

Of course, if you plan to go somewhere you've not been before and you want to gamble while you are there then it is really worth checking the local rules.  There are instances in the past of people facing legal charges for gambling when they are not allowed to when in another country.