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How does Pennsylvania law treat the issue of minors and gambling?

Overview of Pennsylvania Laws on Minors and Gambling

In Pennsylvania, the legal gambling age is 21 for casino gambling and 18 for other forms of wagering such as lottery, horse racing, and bingo. The state has a firm stance on preventing underage gambling, reflecting the broader national concern about the impact of gambling on young people. The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) enforces these laws and imposes penalties on establishments that fail to comply.

Statutory Provisions

The Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes provide clear directives in Title 4 (Amusements), specifically within Chapter 13 (Gaming), where Section 13 defines the terms and conditions under which gambling is permitted. It unequivocally prohibits individuals under the age of 21 from participating in gambling activities at casinos. The same section also lays out penalties for those who facilitate or permit underage individuals to gamble.

Enforcement and Penalties

Casinos in Pennsylvania are required to have stringent measures in place to prevent underage gambling. These include ID verification at entrances and monitoring within the premises. Failure to enforce these measures can result in substantial fines for the establishment or even loss of their gaming license. Additionally, adults who enable minors to gamble can face criminal charges.

Historical Context and Education Initiatives

Historically, Pennsylvania has expanded its gaming options over the years, instituting a state lottery in 1971 and, more recently, allowing for online gaming. Alongside these expansions, there have been concerted efforts to educate the public about the risks associated with underage gambling. Programs like the PGCB's 'Self-Exclusion' initiative are designed to help individuals who wish to restrict their own gambling activities.

Case Example: Commonwealth v. Fumo

An illustrative case regarding the enforcement of gambling laws in Pennsylvania is Commonwealth v. Fumo, where former State Senator Vincent Fumo faced charges related to illegal use of slot machines by minors during a political fundraiser. This case underscored the seriousness with which Pennsylvania treats violations of gambling restrictions concerning minors.


Pennsylvania law maintains strict regulations against underage gambling, with robust enforcement strategies to mitigate this issue. As gambling opportunities continue to evolve, so too does the framework for protecting minors from unlawful participation in these activities.