STATE HOUSE – Fearing that 18-year-olds are not ripe to deal with the potential consequences of gambling, Rep. Deborah A. Fellela (D – Dist. 43, Johnston) has introduced legislation that would increase the legal age for gambling to 21 years of age at any facility where there is a pari-mutuel betting system, casinos or slot parlors.
The House bill (2013-H 5032) provides penalties for gambling underage, including fines and loss of one’s driver’s license.
“We allow our adults to handle alcohol at a minimum age of 21 years old because it comes with a lot of responsibility and potentially severe consequences when abused,” Representative Fellela said. “Gambling comes with hefty consequences as well. A 21-year-old theoretically is enrolled in an institute of higher education, is a member of the military, holds a job or has at least had a few years of real world experience. I think it’s reasonable for the General Assembly to look at raising the legal age at a time when Rhode Island has agreed to allow Twin River casino to expand.”
Under this piece of legislation, an individual convicted of underage gambling would be guilty of a disorderly persons offense and shall be fined between $100 and $500. That person’s driver’s license would also be suspended for six months. If the convicted individual is under the age of 17 and has not obtained a driver’s license, the issuance of his or her license shall be postponed for six months.
Parents or individuals with custody of an underage gambler can face the same penalties if they are convicted of allowing an underage person to gamble.
Cosponsors of the House bill include Representatives Stephen R. Ucci (D – Dist. 42, Johnston, Cranston), Samuel A. Azzinaro (D – Dist. 37, Westerly), Mary Messier (D – Dist. 62, Pawtucket) and Patricia A. Serpa (D – Dist. 27, West Warwick, Coventry, Warwick).