Gambling Age Limitations – A Look at Laws Around the World

Gambling, like many other services or products, comes with a set of legal limitations and restrictions on who can participate. The minimum gambling age differs significantly around the world, and depending on which continent or country you are in, it may be completely illegal no matter how old you are. We take a detailed look at the state-regulated casino and betting industries throughout the world and compare the relative minimum age to gamble. Considering only safe, and regulated gambling vendors – this is your complete guide to minimum gambling age restrictions across the globe.
Casino dice next to a neon sign that says "18+".
Published on: 10 December 2019

Gambling is Not for Children

This may seem obvious and simple to understand, but there are many edge scenarios where this issue becomes more pertinent. Gambling is the act of risking an asset on the outcome of a certain event. Assets can be many different things from the property, company shares, cryptocurrency or just regular money. There are many reasons why a child should not be allowed to engage in this activity but simply put, a young person does not possess the experience or diligence to weigh up financial risk. The act of gambling can be addictive, and a child would be very susceptible to the lure of repeat gambles with little regard for the losses due to an inherent misunderstanding of the value of assets.

Due to online gambling becoming increasingly available, heavily advertised and easily accessible – the enforcement of preventing children from gambling has never been as crucial as it currently is. In the past, it has been relatively easy for a determined minor to use fake credentials to bypass KYC age verification steps and make deposits to online platforms that do not properly enforce the standards.

Increasingly this debate is moving away from clearly defined gambling activities such as casinos and sports betting – and instead of looking into loot boxes and video-game gambling purchases. The key issue here is these are products marketed at children, and in many cases encourage a form of gambling to receive rewards in the game. So far the law is benefiting game publishers who enjoy huge profits off the back of children spending money within their game.

All in all, gambling is something that only adults should be able to do, this is something that is widely accepted throughout the world – but the age in which one is mature enough to take the risk to gamble is a topic of debate. In the following sections, we will analyze in more detail the different gambling age restrictions throughout the world.

Comparing Gabling Age in Regions Around the World

The different regions throughout the world take very different approaches to the legal position of gambling within society. Certain continents such as Europe have very liberalized gambling laws that allow licensed operators a lot of freedoms and citizens have many options to gamble both in-person and online. Whereas the Middle-East has very strict laws that make gambling illegal. In the following sections, we’ll take a look at the most famous and popular places for gambling around the world and explore a number of key concepts. Most notably:

  • The local age limit on a person engaging in gambling activity.
  • Differences in the law for residents and foreign tourists visiting the region.
  • Protections in place to ensure the local laws are not violated.

After giving a comprehensive round-up of each of the described regions below, you’ll be well informed regarding global gambling age limits. As previously mentioned, the lines between what is gambling and what is a video game are sometimes blurred. For our analysis, we will only be considering licensed traditional casinos and sports betting services, both online and in the physical realm.

North America

A stylized map of North America.

Gambling in North America is complicated. In Canada the local government has very strict laws regarding gambling, Canadian based operators must adhere to a tight set of regulations. However, these rules do not apply to overseas operators, and online sportsbooks and casinos such as bet365 are legally available to Canadians. To play at these offshore online casinos in Canada you must be at least 18 years old to gamble. Check out the best online casinos in Canada.

The USA is very complex to analyze on a general gambling age basis, because of local state laws take very different approaches to the legality of gambling and the minimum age of participation. There are states where the gambling age is 18, 21, and completely illegal. For that reason, it is very important to be aware of the difference in the regional divide. One of the most welcoming states for gambling in New Jersey, where you are able to bet online at locally hosted sportsbooks and enter casinos from the age of 21. But the state next door, New York, requires clients to be just 18 years old to enter a casino unless alcohol is being served.

Find out all about gambling in the United States in our full guide.

Europe

Without a doubt, the most liberalized continent on the planet for gambling in Europe. Here you will be able to enjoy casinos, sportsbook betting and much more from your 18th birthday. The UK, Germany, and Spain are the largest three gambling markets on the continent. In 2018 the UK gambling industry yielded £15bn – and is seeing year on year increase in the amount of revenue being processed through its largest commercial participants. You can read more about UK gambling.

Throughout the EU the age to gamble is 18, this is an area of contention in several countries though. With problem gambling rife amongst 16-18-year-old’s, and local anti-gambling charities accusing operators of inappropriate advertising that is targeted at children, there are determined calls for the age of legal gambling to be raised.

Macau & Japan

A map of eastern Asia, with Japan and Macau highlighted.

The biggest markets for gambling in Asia are Macau and Japan. Both of these markets are extremely valuable commodities and have different laws and restrictions when it comes to who is allowed to participate. Japan has a booming commercial gambling industry following the recent law amendment allowing the establishment of “Integrated Resorts”. Despite casino gambling being officially illegal, there are many places you can bet on sports in so-called “pachinko’s” from the age of 20.

Macau is the gambling hub of Asia. The gambling age laws here are somewhat peculiar but typical of the Asian gambling market. If you are a foreigner visiting Macau you must be at least 18 years old, for local citizens it is 21. One thing to note is that the biggest casinos in Macau will only take local currency, so don’t go ill-prepared!

Middle-East

A map of the Middle East.

The Middle-East is a very strict anti-gambling territory. With many local laws dictated by Muslim teachings, gambling is outlawed and considered a sin. Despite this, there are several thriving gambling industries in the Middle-East. Available only to foreigners aged 18 or over, horse racing and certain casino games do exist. In these regions, gambling is seen as a way to extract more money from wealthy tourists visiting, not an activity that they want to encourage within their own society.

The Responsible Gambling Global Movement

There is an undercurrent of support growing for the improvement of responsible gambling around the world.  Many countries now impose strict limitations on big commercial gambling companies, constantly iterating and improving the process of customer identity confirmation. We are moving to a new era of gambling, where casinos both online and in the physical realm are striving to improve the promotion of safe gambling. Please always enjoy gambling responsibly!

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