How Old Do You Have to Be to Gamble in Las Vegas?

To be able to gamble in Las Vegas you must be 21 years or older, per Nevada law. Techopedia’s Paul Cullen explains all you need to know about the Las Vegas gambling age, legal drinking age, and some more obscure things you can’t do under Nevada law next time you’re in Sin City.

On April 23, 1956, Elvis Presley began a two-week run at the New Frontier Casino in Las Vegas. It was his first Sin City gig. Elvis had just turned 21, three months earlier on January 8.

The King of Rock and Roll was at the start of his career. Heartbreak Hotel was his breakout hit. He’d signed a movie deal.

He was busy touring the South, breaking hearts, upsetting mom and pop, and swinging those lean, mean, sexy hips.

Elvis - Las Vegas
Image: Las Vegas 360

By all accounts, his debut show in Las Vegas was a flop. He was tired. He was exhausted. He didn’t live up to the hype.

One reviewer patronisingly described Elvis in Vegas as: ‘a jug of corn liquor at a champagne party.’ However, at 21, at least he could drown his sorrows in the hotel bar and enjoy a little post-show action at the casino.

Had Elvis arrived before his 21st birthday, he would have been confined to his room, banned from the casino, and told to take his blue suede shoes out of the bar.

That’s a hotel experience that would definitely break your heart.

That Was Then, This is Now

Just imagine: it’s 2024. You’re a young man. You’ve hit Sin City, after a 12-month tour of duty in the US marines.

Less than 12 hours ago, you walked into a Las Vegas chapel, armed with just a birth certificate and the love of your life.

For just $102 ($105.29 with credit card), the Clark County Marriage Licence Bureau will issue you a Marriage Licence.

Las Vegas wedding chapel
Image: Dietmar Rabich/Wikimedia Commons

In less than 20 minutes, you’re married.

No questions. No due diligence. You can even get an Elvis look-a-like to do the honours. Wham bam, thank you wife.

You’ve served your country. You’re legally an adult. You are now a married man.

At 20 years old, you are two years past the ‘age of majority’. You can be sentenced to death in 27 states. You can drive. You can vote. You can pilot a commercial aircraft.

Legally, you are responsible for your decisions, actions, and life choices.

Well, almost… 

If you want to celebrate your spontaneous nuptials with a glass of champagne and a spin of the roulette wheel, you’re out of luck.

In Las Vegas, only one number matters: 21.

Not only will 21 (usually) beat the dealer, it’s also the number of years you need on the clock, to really put the sin into Sin City.

The Land of the Almost Free

Ironically, in the land of the free, there are a whole lot of itty-bitty laws that pick away at those prized constitutional freedoms.

Let’s say – for example – you want to ride a camel into town, hop off and hula hoop your way along Fremont Street, and finish the day lying down on the public sidewalk in Reno.

All three of these activities are illegal, under Nevada state law.

In 1875, camel, camels, dromedary and dromedaries were all prohibited from ‘running at large’ on the public highways.

Street performers with hula hoops are illegal on Fremont Street, and sidewalk sleeping is strictly forbidden.

You can – however – sleep in the middle of the street. That’s legal but not recommended.

And – take note:  if you are about to kiss a woman, in the former mining town of Eureka (population 480); and you haven’t shaved off your moustache, you are committing a felony. Only freshly shaven men can kiss a woman in Eureka.

Facial hair was an issue in the Wild – and kinda hairy – West. It does make you wonder where 5 o’clock shadow ends and a moustache begins.

In Las Vegas, you need to be 21 years old to drink and gamble.

The bumper stickers might shout ‘Freedom’ and ‘Honk, if You Love Jesus’; but on the Strip, you’re only truly free when you’re three years older than the legally recognized age of adulthood in the US.

Drinks las vegas
Image: Helena Yankovska/Unsplash

‘Meh!’, you say.

Who really cares if a 20-year-old adult is having a drink or playing a few hands at the blackjack table? The answer: lots of people.

Alcohol regulation is a serious business in the US, and those hard-fought, hard-won, casino licences are priceless.

Drinking laws in the US, up until 1984, were relatively fluid (sorry!), varying from state-to-state. Post-prohibition, in 1933, the 21st Amendment repealed the 18th Amendment.

Once again, 21 is the magic number.

This time trumping a ‘no drink’ amendment with a ‘go drink’ amendment, with most states electing for a minimum legal drinking age (MLDA) of 21.

Here, Beer & Everywhere

In the 1960s and 1970s, the Vietnam War, the youth movement, and the lowering of the voting age to 18 prompted many states to match the drinking age.

If you could die for your country at 18, at least have a beer before you go.

Problem was: pressure groups, including the Mothers Against Drunk Driving, managed to persuade legislators to link federal highway funding to a minimum drinking age.

If you’re encouraging the youth to drink and drive, it comes at a cost: potholes.

Basically: if you wanted good quality roads, you had to have a minimum drinking age of 21. Ronald Reagan signed the National Minimum Drinking Age act into law in 1984.

The only US states not complying with the 21 minimum are Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.

Either the roads are pothole free or they just don’t care.

In Las Vegas, casinos stick to the rules.

Here’s why: according to the Nevada Gaming Control Board, casinos statewide collected $15.5 billion in revenues in 2023. The Las Vegas Strip smashed records, with an $8.9 billion share of the total.

Las Vegas and Nevada have definitely bounced back from the covid blip.

When you are churning these kind of numbers, 21 matters. It REALLY matters.

No casino, north, west, east or south of Fremont Street, will risk this kind of revenue, for the sake of serving some snotty high school kids who may, or may not be, of legal age.

Sorry, Not Tonight…

slots in casino
Image: Amit Lahav/Unsplash

You want to take it down at the tables? Smash the slots? Channel your inner James Bond at baccarat? That’s fine… but we’re going to need to see some ID, please.

As well as putting your Las Vegas casino licence on the line, when it comes to alcohol sales, there are potentially serious consequences for both the buyer and the vendor.

If you sell alcohol to someone under 21, you could end up in jail for six months – and with a $1,000 fine.

So, Sin City… we wait until we cross the line and hit the blackjack of life.

At 21, not only is Las Vegas all yours, for better or for worse, you can also adopt a child, carry a concealed weapon, and legally rent a car. All at the same time – if you want.

According to Trip Advisor, Las Vegas has more than 4,000 restaurants, around 200 cocktail bars, and no one seems to know exactly how many regular bars and clubs (note, to editor: I am available to research this).

Suffice to say: there are lots and lots and lots and lots.

There are 60 major casinos, according to the Nevada Gaming Control Board, and you can bet drinks will be available; usually free, if you’re making plenty of trips to the cashier’s cage.

Sin City is the temple of excess, the home of hope, and a bastion to all things bet-shaped. It will wait for you. It’s worth the wait.

Our advice: if you’re not 21 but you’re desperate to hit the casino, consider Europe.

Monte Carlo, London, Paris, and Venice all have high-end casinos that will gladly take your money and comp you with an alcoholic drink.

You’ll even get to avoid US roulette, with its unnecessary extra 00. Who needs that? Why?

Save your cents and pennies and hit Las Vegas when you are at the legal gambling age of 21. Let’s face it: what a way to celebrate your birthday.

Elvis said it best: Bright light city gonna set my soul. Gonna set my soul on fire. Viva Las Vegas.

Just don’t try and pawn your dentures, when you blow it all at the tables. Apparently, that’s illegal too.

Paul Cullen
Casino Industry Expert

Paul Cullen is an industry veteran, with a track record that stretches back to day one. He started his career as a copywriter and creative for the world’s very first online sportsbook: There was no one else. Since then, he has seen the industry evolve and grow, working at BetonSports, BetWWTS, Absolute Poker, Ultimate Bet, InterCasino, PartyGaming, Mansion, Bodog, Casino Choice, Costa Bingo and Casumo. The evolution of Internet gaming, the arrival of the online casino, the poker revolution, and the bingo boom. He’s got the t-shirt.