Las Vegas Sun

September 30, 2014

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GAMING:

Idea floated to lower state gambling age to 18

If Nevada could have instant access to millions of new customers in these hard economic times, would the state’s Legislature and governor go for the potential windfall of new business?

We may soon find out.

The ability to bring millions of new customers to Las Vegas if the state’s minimum gambling age was lowered to 18 was the reasoning behind the suggestion raised by a gaming industry lawyer in a question-and-answer session with regulators at Friday’s gaming law conference sponsored by the State Bar of Nevada.

State Gaming Control Board Chairman Dennis Neilander and Nevada Gaming Commission Chairman Peter Bernhard were asked their feelings about changing Nevada’s gambling age limit from 21 to 18. Neilander said he would take the suggestion to Steven Horsford, the new Senate majority leader, and Assembly Majority Leader Barbara Buckley.

Neilander warned that the proposal would undergo intense scrutiny from groups concerned about problem gambling and underage players.

Neither Neilander nor Bernhard said they supported nor opposed the idea.

There is some precedent for allowing those 18 and older to gamble in bordering states. The age requirement to play at tribal casinos in California and Arizona is 18.

The Nevada Revised Statutes say a person under the age of 21 years 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.”

Any person who breaks the law is guilty of a misdemeanor and the statute also says that allowing someone who they thought was over 21 to gamble is no excuse for violating the law.

Because the prohibition on under-21 gambling is a state law, the Legislature would have to pass a law and the governor would have to sign the legislation if it passed to change the existing statute.

Neilander said he would mention the idea to Horsford and Buckley, who won reelection earlier in the week and will meet with the Nevada Legislature when it convenes in February.

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