The WAGER, Vol. 1(32) – Underage gambling in Atlantic City casinos

After 1985, no one under 21 years of age legally has been permitted to gamble in Atlantic City casinos. Research confirms that despite this regulation, underage gambling in Atlantic City casinos and other casinos around the country occurs. For example, the Casino Control Commission in New Jersey reports that in 1987 200,000 underage youth were refused entry to a casino and 35,000 were ushered from the casino floor1. Frank conducted a study** of students (n=636) in a college near Atlantic City to determine the incidence and frequency of undergraduate students’ gambling. To increase the reliability and representativeness of the study sample, three groups of students in large introductory courses were surveyed during the period between 1986-1988. The percentage of respondents who were under 21 was 69% in 1988, 38% in 1987, and 46% in 1986. Unexpectedly, Frank found that there was no association between prevalence of lifetime gambling and age. That is, gambling behavior did not increase (or decrease) with age. Of all the students who gambled at a casino, 66% were underage. An earlier study*** found that 64% of 332 underage Atlantic City high school students had gambled at casinos. Another finding about risk-taking activities from Frank’s study was that gambling at a casino was associated with participating in other forms of gambling or risk-taking activities, such as playing the lottery or sports betting.


Bruner, K. (1989). High stakes: The number of teen gamblers in the United States is rising at an alarming rate. Employee Assistance, May, pp. 26-28;

**Frank, M.L. (1990). Underage gambling in Atlantic City casinos. Psychological Reports, 67, 907-912;

***Arcuri, A.F., Lester, D., & Smith, F.O. (1985). Shaping adolescent gambling behavior. Adolescence, 20, 935-938.

This public education project is funded, in part, by The Andrews Foundation and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.
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For more information contact the Massachusetts Council on Compulsive Gambling,
190 High Street, Suite 6, Boston, MA 02110. (e-mail)
(617) – 426 – 4554 (voice)