Double standards in gambling age requirements need to go

Yesterday, the two biggest daily fantasy sports companies, DraftKings and FanDuel, came out in support of AG Maura Healey’s proposed regulations for the industry. A quick summary:

Healey has proposed regulations that would require daily fantasy sports players to be at least 21 years of age, prohibit college sports from the competitions, require stronger player data protections and programs to help problem gamblers, among other requirements.

For the most part, these make sense: we want to curb the harms that can come from gambling, whether it’s on fantasy sports or anything else. We should also make sure that betting on fantasy sports is reserved for adults, just like the state lottery and other types of gambling.

Yet the state lottery has a minimum age requirement of 18 years (as it should be). Why would it make sense to apply a different age requirement for this type of gambling, which arguably leaves much less to chance than a scratch ticket or an entry for Powerball? Is there some sort of greater risk involved in daily fantasy sports? Or is the state just cynically trying to keep some market share among gamblers between the ages of 18 and 21?

Since 18-year-olds are legal adults, capable of joining the military, buying a house, and entering the state lottery, I don’t see any good reason to bar 18-to-21-year-old adults from betting on fantasy sports. Unfortunately I haven’t heard anyone else really questioning this, and thus AG Healey hasn’t given a justification for this hypocritical regulation. Before these rules are enacted, Healey’s office need to fix this wrong-headed discrepancy.


14 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. Two standards for the price of one

    It’s a fair point, but all our gambling regulation is schizophrenic.

    If the state is going to allow casinos, and the argument is revenue, I don’t like it, but I can live with it.

    If the state is going to have a lottery, and the argument is revenue, then I would argue that the quality of life issues raised by casinos are also raised by the lottery, though to a lesser extent. I can also live with this, because I pretty much have to. No one is arguing for getting rid of the lottery.

    If we’re going to sacrifice quality of life, and the argument is revenue … I don’t know what to say. Sure, people are going to gamble. If we’re going to have that in the private sector, yes, we have to regulate it. If we’re going to have the state be in the business, then clearly that’s going to be regulated too. So pretty soon we have a massive apparatus around something that impairs our quality of life. But, democracy. We can’t ban gambling (well we could but it wouldn’t work).

    It’s a dilemma. I wonder if any studies have been done on just having it all in the private sector, regulating it lightly, and taxing it. I don’t mean going Nevada, but in our case maybe redirecting lottery resources toward regulating gambling (including Draft Kings and some new private lottery companies).

    • I argue against the Lottery

      I think the Lottery exemplifies regressive plundering of the poor by the wealthy.

      I argue against the Lottery. I’m disappointed with Ms. Healey for allowing gambling to expand even more. I agree that the age disparity is unfair, and I think it is best resolved by either raising the minimum age of the Lottery to 21 or eliminating the Lottery altogether.

      • As with reducing taxes...

        …I would call on anyone proposing the elimination of the lottery to suggest how to make up the difference or what they are willing to cut. I think the best solution is one you have proposed in the past to require that revenue from tickets purchased in a given town be used to assist that town.

        • That's one way

          I think the primary effect of that constraint (requiring that revenue raised form the Lottery stay in the city or town where it is collected) would be to destroy political support for the current system of regressive exploitation.

          I suspect that the legislature might find the political courage, and therefore the mechanisms, to increase taxes on the wealthy if we made significantly harder to continue plundering the desperate and poor.

          I’m open to pretty much any approach that increases taxes on the wealthy in order to replace the revenue we currently plunder from the poor.

  2. Raise the Lottery age

    This “18 is old enough to …” argument is spurious.

    There is at least a vague relationship between voting and serving in the military (never mind being drafted), so there is justification for saying that a person old enough to be drafted is also old enough to vote.

    There is no such justification for drinking, and no such justification for gambling. There is ample evidence that alcohol abuse among young people — and drunk driving fatalities on public highways — was significantly reduced by raising the drinking age from 18 to 21.

    We’ve had the Lottery for decades now. I wonder if, in all that time, ANYBODY has bothered to actually collect statistics on problem gambling among that demographic.

    This age group is our hardest-hit demographic for unemployment, wages, and affordable housing. We should not be exploiting desperate 18-21 year old men and women in order to fund arts programs in already wealthy enclaves like Carlisle.

    We should RAISE the gambling age to 21 statewide, including for the Lottery.

    • Related on the lottery

      I see this ad all the time on Instagram.

      They may not be showing this ad to the 18-21 demographic, but Instagram is hardly a place to advertise to an older demographic (especially with an ad like that that borrows so heavily from other viral videos). I doubt the Lottery cares about potential exploitation of that group.

      I think this regulation on fantasy sports was just one way to give some cover so they can claim they are doing something but without pissing off the industry or, more importantly, their partners and investors in pro sports, including the Krafts. The 18-21 group probably doesn’t drop a ton per user on the sites, so the companies are fine with cutting them out. As one of AG Healey’s first big acts, this one is really disappointing, and having her former boss involved in the lobbying efforts given the weak result is pretty sketchy (but also politics as usual).

    • Not spurious

      I think that having staggered age requirements for all sorts of dangerous things is a silly concept at its core, since it’s more about when someone has the maturity to make a decision that may come with harms than it is about when someone is most resistant to those harms. I agree that voting is a bit of an exception since it’s political participation and not dangerous in and of itself, but I think that things like gambling, drinking, smoking, sex, etc. should all be treated the same. Otherwise we end up in weird place (as we are now) where someone can make the decision to smoke tobacco but not drink; can buy lottery tickets but can’t play fantasy sports.

      Basically, the question isn’t “Are 19-year-olds more susceptible to the harms of DFS gambling?”, but “Are 19-year-olds mature enough to weigh the pros and cons of DFS gambling?” if that makes sense.

      • I guess we just disagree

        If it’s important to have a single age for everything you mention (which I’m unconvinced of), then I prefer 21 to 18. I see nothing “silly” about it, and other than asserting that it’s “weird” (which, for the sake of this conversation, strikes me as synonymous with “silly”) you’ve offered no rationale for your position.

        I note that you include sex in your list, presumably referring to the age of consent. I note that under current Massachusetts law, this is 16 for females and 18 for males — and pertains only to heterosexual conduct (there is no age of consent for homosexual conduct). I also note that this law pertains to sexual conduct with a partner 21 or older. Perhaps one of our attorneys here at BMG can clarify the standing of women under 16 choosing to have sex with men under 18. I’m under the impression that it is not illegal (and therefore permitted), and I am most certainly not a lawyer. I have the perhaps naive impression that conduct is legal in the US under the Constitution unless it is prohibited by law.

        It sounds as if you’re arguing that tobacco, alcohol, and gambling should all be legal at 16 for women and 18 for men. Or perhaps the age of consent for men should be reduced to 16, so that all this behavior is legal at 16. Or perhaps you are arguing that it should be illegal for anybody to have sex (along with the other activities you enumerate) until 18 or 21.

        My sense is that it is your asserted desire for uniformity that is misplaced. I don’t know about having a different age for women than for men. I think a decision to drink is completely different from a decision to have sex. I think a sober 16 year old (male or female) is much more able to make an informed decision about sex than a drunken 16 year old.

        The decision to raise the drinking age from 18 to 21 was made after an epidemic of drunken driving crashes involving 16-21 year-olds. I don’t know when the Massachusetts drinking age was set at 18, I moved here in 1974 and it was 18 at that time. That epidemic stopped when the drinking age was raised to 21 in the early 1980s. There is strong statistical evidence that men and women in their twenties make much better decisions about tobacco use than teenagers.

        I agree that gambling in the form of buying Lottery tickets is no different from gambling in the form of fantasy sports, Keno, slots, or other casino games. As with tobacco, there is strong statistical evidence that minors (under 21) make far worse decisions about gambling than adults over 21.

        I further note that alcohol is a mainstay of industry purveyors of slots and casino games — allowing those purveyors to combine alcohol and gaming for men and women under 21 is particularly harmful.

        It seems to me that if you want to claim that these age distinctions are “spurious”, “silly”, or “weird”, you need to present a stronger case than offering various synonyms for the same bias.

        • 1973

          I could go get a pizza and beer for lunch my senior year in high school. It made trigonometry class harder last period though.
          The most important age/rights limitation is the government should not be able to tax your wages until you are able to vote.

          • Agreed @ taxation and voting

            I think that’s effectively true now, since very few under-18 workers end up having any actual tax liability.

            I firmly believe the voting age should be no more than 18 and I support lowering it to 16 if it ever gets on a ballot initiative or before the legislature.

            • I've long thought that voting age should be 16 for three basic reasons.

              1) If you can work you have to file returns even if you don’t end up paying much, so yes, taxation following representation.

              2) 16-year-olds can drive and have no way to defend themselves politically against knee-jerk calls to restrict driving privileges everytime an accident involving a teen driver makes the news. I don’t think it’s coincidence that there are not similar calls in response to accidents involving elderly drivers. They can and do vote.

              3) Locally, this allows them to vote for school committee while still in high school or property tax issues while it still actually affects them. Even on a wider scale in some jurisdictions they can be tried as adults so they should be able to vote on laws and lawmakers that affect that.

        • My understanding...

          …is that in the case of alcohol, the body does not physically mature enough to fully “hold liquor” until 21. It does make sense to restrict access to parlors where such is served until that age too, though ideally alcohol would not be served on the same premises at all. Offering a substance that impairs judgement along with an activity where judgement is questionable at best anyway seems to be asking for trouble.

        • same age of consent

          Not that it is particularly germane to the discussion – but just so some teens don’t worry – the age of consent for sex is 16 for both male and female (this comes from MGL. c.265, s. 23 know as the statutory rape law). Thus two 15 year olds having sex have committed statutory rape on each other.

          18 shows up in a different statute MGL c.272, s. 4 .( Inducing person under 18 of chaste life to have sexual intercourse) – this also aplies to males and females.

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Wed 29 Mar 2:55 PM