New Jersey is one of the rare places in the United States where you can gamble without worrying about the law. Casinos are 100% legal in this US state, and Atlantic City is basically the second mecca of gambling aside from Las Vegas. There’s just one thing to remember, though – how old you have to be to gamble in NJ.

Gambling, while widely available, is heavily regulated. Not everyone can just walk into a casino and start playing slots or placing some bets. Heck, you can’t even play poker online if you are underage. There are certain limitations in place, and today, we’ll be discussing them while giving you some pointers if you plan to head out to Atlantic City to enjoy its casinos.

History of Gambling in NJ

First of all, let’s see what exciting gaming opportunities there are in New Jersey. We’ve already mentioned Atlantic City. This is basically Las Vegas on the East coast, a city resort where pretty much every hotel comes with a casino attached. Of course, you can enjoy that sort of entertainment only if you’re of legal age to gamble in NJ.

Residents and tourists can participate in various types of gambling across the state. New Jersey National, arguably one of the longest-running lotteries in the US, is the lottery of choice for NJ folks. The prizes can reach dizzying heights – the largest one was $533 million, awarded in 2018! There are also racetracks where you can bet on horse races, charity casino games, and all other sorts of games of chance.

New Jersey has always been the most pro-gambling of all US states, and NJ’s gambling age used to be somewhat lower than it is today. Although lotteries have been running throughout the 19th century, they were at some point outlawed along with all other forms of gambling. The ban on gambling halted all activities for a long time (from 1844 to 1939), although it didn’t stop people from gambling.

There were still slot machines, bingo games, and even people placing their bets through underground bookmakers throughout those years. A few years after WWII, the state started slowly opening up to the idea of organized gambling. How old do you have to be to go to a casino? That wasn’t as much of an issue as it is today since no one was allowed to gamble. Not legally, anyway.

During the 1970s, New Jersey created its famous lottery after passing a vote. This led to the very first American lottery game where players could pick their own numbers. It took some more time, but nowadays, NJ is akin to Nevada, and all sorts of betting and gambling are allowed, including online casinos and sportsbooks.

Gambling Age in New Jersey

Gambling and its regulations are as colorful as the history of the activity itself. Up until 1983, you could participate in all kinds of gambling and sports betting activities if you were 18 and up. That changed with the introduction of The Casino Control Act, which the House of Senate brought up due to numerous concerns about underage drinking in the casinos.

Ever since then, the legal gambling age in NJ has been 21. As in, the same as the legal drinking age. The law affects all parts of New Jersey and every casino in Atlantic City, and all online casinos and gambling sites that operate within the state. But, there’s a catch: not all kinds of gambling and betting fall under this regulation.

If you prefer sportsbooks over online casinos, you can participate in horse betting as soon as you turn eighteen, but only if it’s a pari-mutuel type of wagering. Other gaming activities for this gambling age include lottery and charitable gambling. It doesn’t matter if you’re born and raised in NJ, or you’re just a tourist; these rules apply to everyone.

Penalties for Underage Gambling

Obviously, you’re not allowed to gamble or bet if you’re not of legal age. But, what happens if you still try to do it? First of all, resorts and casinos (including online ones) that participate in the gambling business can absolutely refuse your patronage. In fact, you won’t be allowed back inside the gambling venues even if you return without any intention to gamble (though why you would do that since you can’t drink either is another question).

There are also penalties for people under the New Jersey gambling age who participate in gambling activities. It’s not a high-level offense, but that doesn’t make it any less punishing. The fine is up to $1,000 and up to six months of jail time. If a person gets fined, they’ll also lose their driving license for up to six months. It can also impact their criminal record.

While harsh, the penalty doesn’t apply to absolutely every underage person that sets foot inside an NJ casino. A “first offender” rule will be applied for people with no criminal record, especially if they didn’t actively gamble at the premises. Dismissal can also happen if the case is trivial, even if the offender is below the NJ casino age limit. That said, you should still respect the limitations, wait a few years until you’re of legal age, and then you can play at casinos worry-free.

Further Reading

Gambling Addiction Stats & Facts


Can you gamble at 18 in NJ?

Gambling is strictly forbidden in NJ for everyone under 21, both in casinos and online. The only types of gaming activities you may participate in when you’re 18 are horse racing, charity gambling, and lottery.

Where can I gamble at 18?

The exact legal gambling age wildly varies across the United States. It’s also different depending on whether you want to play at a casino, play bingo or lottery, or want to bet on horse races. If you’re 18, you can legally gamble in California, Hawaii, Kentucky, Georgia, Montana, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington DC.

Why do you have to be 21 to gamble?

The age of 21 is when one is considered an adult in the US. On top of that, it’s the legal drinking age and, since every gambling venue serves alcoholic drinks, it makes sense that the same regulation had to be put into place.

What happens if you gamble under 21?

It depends on which part of the US you gamble at. If you’re wondering how old you have to be to gamble in NJ and California, you won’t get the same answer, but the repercussions for underage gambling are the same – a fine and potential jail time. In very rare cases, the judge may drop any charges, but it’s best not to risk it and wait until you’re old enough to gamble legally.