Why Kentucky Was Right to Set Sports Betting Age Limit at 18

Why Kentucky Was Right to Set Sports Betting Age Limit at 18
Fact Checked by Nate Hamilton

What you’re about to read will likely be dismissed by many in the gaming industry as something that can’t be seriously considered. However, the more I think about it, the more it makes sense.

The age limit for sports betting needs to be 18 as Kentucky sports betting is advocating.

I’m not just saying this because I’m based in Kentucky, which later this year will become the sixth state, plus the District of Columbia, to allow people that young to register for sports betting accounts. I’m not just saying this because of comments made earlier this month by Ohio Casino Control Commission Executive Director Matt Schuler, who told a Cincinnati TV reporter that he believes Kentucky’s age limit is “horrible.”

This is something that I’ve been ambivalent about for a long time. I’ve understood the desire to allow 18-year-olds to bet on sports, especially since people that age can bet on horse racing or play the lottery in most states. At the same time, I’ve understood the arguments from responsible gaming advocates who say teens are more susceptible to developing problem gambling issues.

NCAA Survey Results Support Lowering Age Limit

What convinced me finally and firmly to make my stand at 18 was the survey results released last month by the NCAA. One question stood out: For those who have engaged in sports betting while in college, “Have you ever placed a bet with a local bookmaker who is a fellow student at the institution you currently attend or are earning a degree from?”

More than a third answered they had.

That’s not an insignificant number. That’s a problem.

I’d be willing to wager that if they’re betting with a bookie at 18 or 19, they’ll probably be more inclined to keep betting that way when they turn 21.

If we are going to be serious about getting bettors to wager in legal, regulated markets, we should be looking to do that as soon as possible. Giving illegal operators any kind of head start only undermines that effort.

Even the percentage of students who said they didn’t use an on-campus bookie is a concern. There’s no way the remaining 65.3% are all of legal age using licensed sportsbooks. Many of those students are likely betting offshore or elsewhere, which is just as much of a concern as the local bookie.

Find all of the best Kentucky sportsbook apps right here on BetKentucky.com.

‘They’re Going To Find a Way’

I may be in the minority regarding allowing 18-year-olds to wager legally, but I’m not alone. A few others also believe adults – and that’s the key term here – that young should have access to the regulated market.

Kentucky State Rep. Michael Meredith, a Republican lawmaker who sponsored House Bill 511 that legalized sports betting in the state, told BetKentucky that it was about consistency. State laws on horse racing, historical horse racing, the lottery and charitable gaming allow those as young as 18 to participate.

“I don’t think the government should say that an 18-year-old can’t bet if the government is also saying that you’re an adult when you’re 18 years old,” he said. “You can be prosecuted as an adult for a crime when you’re 18 years of age. You can go to prison as an adult when you’re 18 years of age. You can serve our country as an adult when you’re 18 years of age and die in battle for our country when you’re 18 years of age.”

Meredith also pointed out that some offshore websites allow 18-year-olds to register for accounts.

“Why would we not want them in the regulated, protected marketplace where there are resources for problem gambling and all those things, instead of being in an offshore position,” he added. “Because listen, if you think college kids aren’t going to bet on games just because we say they can’t, that’s crazy. They’re going to find a way.”

Jamie Salsburg is an Ohioan who founded Dyve Agency Ltd., a responsible gambling consultancy. He noted there are pros and cons of whether the age limit is set at 18 or 21, but he doesn’t believe it should stay at 21 because it’s been that way in other states for years.

Like Meredith, he also questions the logic that an 18-year-old’s brain is developed enough to enlist in the military or agree to take on six-figure student loans but not well enough to bet on sports.

He also noted that newer gamblers are more likely to make mistakes.

“I have theories that by opening it up at a younger age, there are ways that could be helpful in reducing problem gambling,” Salsburg told BetKentucky. “You don’t have as much to lose. You’re at a different stage in life. I think you’re still much closer connected to your family unit in most cases.”

Start With Limits

Now, even though I think legal sports betting options should be available for 18-year-olds, I’m not for just turning them loose with apps on their iPhones. There need to be guidelines in place.

For starters, we need to better educate children about the dangers of problem gambling behaviors. Children learn in school about the dangers of drug abuse. Gambling is no different.

And just as we do with driver’s licenses, sports betting accounts for those individuals need to come with limits. In Kentucky, new drivers under 18 don’t get a full license right away when they pass their test. First, they must have a permit for 180 days before they can even take a test, and then they face certain limits behind the wheel. For the six months, they’re considered to hold an intermediate license. That means they can’t drive between midnight and 6 am, with exceptions only for emergencies, work or school activities. During that time, they’re only allowed to have one other unrelated teenager in the vehicle, and the 180-day period resets if they get a speeding ticket or other moving violation.

If we can gradually increase a teen’s privileges behind the wheel, we can also put similar restrictions in place for younger bettors.

Place limits on deposits, limits on how much they can wager, and how much time they spend on an app. I’d be fine with direct marketing and promotional bonus prohibitions, too.

But with those limits also come responsibilities. For authorities. Such accounts can only work if more efforts are taken to identify and stop illegal gambling activities. Otherwise, young bettors will jump to a more enticing product if one’s available, and it will be harder to get them to enter the regulated market when they’re considered of age.

Again, I’m not expecting to change minds overnight, but this is a serious discussion worth having if we want to seriously address responsible gaming practices.

Sports betting is officially coming to the Bluegrass State and once it launches, we will have all the best Kentucky sportsbook promo codes for you to take advantage of.

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Steve is an accomplished, award-winning reporter with more than 20 years of experience covering gaming, sports, politics and business. He has written for the Associated Press, Reuters, The Louisville Courier Journal, The Center Square and numerous other publications. Based in Louisville, Ky., Steve has covered the expansion of sports betting in the U.S. and other gaming matters.

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