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Vegas Could Lower Gambling Age to 18

Americans, President-elect Obama included, are scrambling to find appropriate measures to right the economic course after months of freefall. And Nevada could have a solution in lowering the legal gambling age from 21 to 18. If seen through, the state could tap into a huge market in the form of millions of new customers. But on the other hand, would the state’s Legislature and governor be prepared for the windfall coupled with a massive back lash? Time will tell. At a question-and-answer session with gaming industry regulators at last week’s gaming law conference, sponsored by the State Bar of Nevada, the suggestion was raised by a lawyer.

Dennis Neilander, State Gaming Control Board Chairman, and Peter Bernhard, Nevada Gaming Commission Chairman, were both asked about altering Nevada’s gambling age limit, and Neilander, without making any bold declarations, said he’d pass on the suggestion to Steven Horsford, the new Senate majority leader, and Assembly Majority Leader Barbara Buckley.

Neilander, however, warned that the idea would be a powder keg for groups that champion anti-gambling causes, problem gambling and the potential legions of new, young and vulnerable players.

So no definitive adherence came from either Neilander or Bernhard.

But there is a precedent to pursue the option as the legal age to gamble at tribal casinos in California and Arizona is 18.

But under the Nevada Revised Statutes, it says that anyone under the age of 21 shall not “play, be allowed to play, place wagers at, or collect winnings from, whether personally or through an agent, any gambling game, slot machine, race book, sports pool or pari-mutuel operator; loiter, or be permitted to loiter, in or about any room or premises wherein any licensed game, race book, sports pool or pari-mutuel wagering is operated or conducted or be employed as a gaming employee except in a counting room.”

And anyone who breaks the law is guilty of a misdemeanor. Furthermore, permitting someone to gamble presumed to be over 21 isn’t an excuse for violating the law.

Because of the state law, the Legislature would have to pass a law, and then the governor would have to sign the legislation, if passed, to change the law.

Moving forward, Neilander said he would mention the proposal to Horsford and Buckley, who won reelection and will meet with the Nevada Legislature in February.
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