America is experiencing a sports betting renaissance, and the effect of the now-mainstream activity has been felt nationwide.
With last week’s industry launch in New Hampshire on Monday, December 31, there are now 14 states with legal sports wagering up and running (minimum gambling ages in parentheses):
- Arkansas (21)
- Delaware (21)
- Indiana (21)
- Iowa (21)
- Mississippi (21)
- Nevada (21)
- New Jersey (21)
- New Mexico (21)
- New York (21)
- Oregon (18)
- Pennsylvania (21)
- Rhode Island (18)
- West Virginia (21)
Additionally, there are at least seven more states (plus the District of Columbia) that have passed sports betting bills or are awaiting the launches of their own state-regulated sportsbooks:
- Colorado (21)
- Illinois (21)
- Maine (21)
- Michigan (21)
- Montana (18)
- North Carolina (21)
- Tennessee (21)
- Washington DC (18)
As you can see above, for bettors under the age of 21, these state-based options aren’t particularly valuable, as the vast majority of states with legal sports betting industries have set their ages of participation at 21 years old.
In fact, only Oregon, Rhode Island, Montana, and Washington DC have laws allowing bettors aged 18+ to wager on sports. All three states’ (plus DC’s) sports betting initiatives are overseen by their respective lottery agencies, with each lotto keeping its traditional minimum age intact.
As a general rule, in those regions where state lotteries run sports betting, you will likely see more wagering options for those under 21 years of age.
However, most states are embracing the privatization of sports wagering, and in almost all cases, the product is or will be offered via casinos or casino-related brands. In these circumstances, you should expect the legal gambling age to remain 21 and up.
Given that there are approximately 14 million US adults between the ages of 18 and 20 – and given that that AGA estimates that roughly 40 percent of US residents will wager on sports at least once, that works out to as many as 5.6 million Americans who are left out in the cold when it comes to betting on their favorite players and teams. That’s a huge untapped market.
Untapped by domestic operators, anyway.
Fortunately for our younger betting friends, there are many legal online sportsbooks that accept gamblers at just 18. These include some of the biggest names in the industry, like Bovada, SportsBetting, BetOnline, and others.
Even better, despite growing efforts to legalize sports betting in the US, no state has included bans on offshore sports wagering in their legislation.
New Jersey has formally threatened to prosecute marketers and offshore operators that promote and accept NJ residents as customers, which has caused all the most reputable gambling sites to voluntarily withdraw from the Garden State market.
That said, it is still not technically illegal for New Jerseyites to wager with offshore services.
Interestingly, one of the side effects of expanded sports betting throughout the US has been the newfound consideration paid by state legislatures to casino gaming itself, particularly in states that have long barred this type of gambling.
In Virginia, for example, legislative openness to sports wagering after the overturn of the PASPA ban has sparked a fire in the statehouse to pursue the legalization of casino gambling statewide.
Other traditionally anti-gambling states are also setting up committees to investigate the economic impact of casino gaming within their borders, confirming many analysts’ assertions that legal sports betting would usher in a new era of gambling in general.
Still, these states are unlikely to reduce the casino gambling age to 18 in any large number, as such venues typically limit service to those of legal drinking age, which is 21+ nationwide.
The upshot is simply this: Even if a few states allow bettors aged 18 and up to wager on sports through their lotteries, the dramatic majority of the millions of young gamblers in the country will continue to use legal offshore casinos and sports betting sites.
While much of the impetus of the new betting laws in various states has been to recover as much of that offshore action as possible, it seems likely that this particular age group – those bettors and gamblers between 18 and 20 years old – should look to offshore solutions for the foreseeable future.
And even for those who are 21-plus, most states – at least right now – seem reticent to legalize online casino gaming. They don’t even accept crypto!
As modes of local economic stimuli, land-based casinos will by and large be limited to offering their services within their brick-and-mortar retail venues. For gamblers more concerned with convenience and value, then, offshore 18+ casino sites will remain the number-one destinations.
Until such a time as all 50 US states offer full online casino gaming and sports betting to all adults 18 and older and accept Bitcoin deposits, offshore gambling services will have a big place at the table.
And a very big piece of the pie.