Gambling at 18

All of the passionate back-and-forth about whether or not 18-year-olds are fit for gambling has former regulator Richard Schuetz (l.) thinking about a similar debate from a far-off time—and to be clear, he ain’t no fortunate son.

Gambling at 18

A debate has erupted of late with respect to how old one needs to be to gamble.

It surfaced when Matt Schuler, Executive Director of the Ohio Casino Control Commission (OCCC), passionately suggested that Kentucky had lost its road map by allowing individuals to gamble in the state at 18. While it might seem as if Mr. Schuler was minding someone else’s business, his concern surfaced as a result of the fact that the two states share a border, and Mr. Shuler was concerned that Ohio’s youth would cross the border to do something they could not do legally at home.

As is typical of such things, this started a bit of a social media debate about how old is old enough.

This then led to discussions about the age of voting. I was very much alive and politically aware when the voting age was dropped to 18 from 21, which seems to be an important benchmark and justification for allowing people to gamble at that age. I thought it may prove valuable for others to understand why the voting age was lowered.

The process to allow voting at 18 started in 1955 when the U.S. sent military advisors and trainers to the Republic of Vietnam. Through dribs and drabs, the U.S. involvement grew slowly until the mid-1960s, when things began to escalate under the presidency of Lyndon Johnson. Johnson began having the U.S. initiate bombing attacks on North Vietnamese assets in 1964. In early 1965, Johnson ordered 3,500 U.S. Marines to Da Nang, and by 1966 the U.S. had committed almost 400,000 troops to that war.

Finding 400,000 troops to risk their lives to go off to a war of curious motivations in a far-off land was a task of the U.S. Secretary of Defense, Robert S. McNamara. In order to fill this need, the U.S. began drafting men between the age of 18 and 26 to serve. Draft deferments could be given for satisfactory college attendance, special family needs, physical issues, and other special cases. During this time, there were also a great many draft dodgers, people relocating to Canada, and many otherwise seemingly fit people who discovered they had medical issues, and this was especially true of the upper middle and upper classes who had excellent access to doctors.

Secretary McNamara was even forced to lower the standards applied to draftees in order to meet the massive manpower needs of this war, to which over two million people were drafted in the next six years. And this draft was absolutely biased to target people of lower socio-economic classes, low levels of educational attainment, and people of color.

One of the terms that came into use at the time was body counts, and the U.S. body counts were exploding at an alarming rate. This led to a period of strong civil dissent in the U.S., accompanied by riots in the streets and substantial social unrest.

This also brought about a generational conflict between people like my father, who fought in the “Good War,” and me, who had no interest in going off to Asia to try and kill some people with whom I did not have any issues.

As the war continued, it was obvious that the U.S. was not going to accomplish anything other than getting an enormous number of people maimed and killed. As the U.S. failure in this war became apparent, it became quite important for people my age not to want to be the last American killed in The Nam. By the time America was totally out of Vietnam, almost 400,000 Americans had been killed or injured. Added to that were the deaths done to almost four million civilians and combatants on both sides in Vietnam.

It was also clear toward the end of the war that our government had been very dishonest in its communications about the conflict, and as the ending indicated, the war effort had been a material failure. A great many brave people suffered grievously for a failed policy pushed by a bunch of dishonest politicians. A war sold as being about God & Country was apparently about something else entirely.

It was in the midst of this slaughter that the voting age was lowered from 21 to 18. This was done because of the massive involvement of 18, 19, and 20-year-olds in the Vietnam War (or what the Vietnamese call “The American War”). This group had been the easiest to force into the war by the power of the US government, and so a group of politicians pushed to allow them to be able to vote so as to at least give these young people an opportunity to select the people who could force them to their death.

The point of all of this was that the voting age was lowered to 18 because the United States needed bodies to fight an immoral war. It had nothing to do with maturity, judgment, or anything else.

Dedicated to my friend, helicopter pilot CWO Jim Ray Cavender, MIA, in Khanh Hoa Province, South Vietnam, November 4, 1969. Panel 16W, Line 27 on The Wall. Jim was 20 when the helicopter he was piloting and its three crew members went MIA. The last radio contact from Jim was: “We’re upside down, what’s happening? Oh, my God, what do I do?”

Articles by Author: Richard Schuetz

Richard Schuetz started dealing blackjack for Bill Harrah 47 years ago, and has traveled the world as a casino executive, educator and regulator. He is sincerely appreciative of the help he received from his friends and colleagues throughout the gaming world in developing this article, understanding that any and all errors are his own.