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How old do you have to be to cash in a scratch ticket in Massachusetts?

Quick Answer

In Massachusetts, you must be at least 18 years old to purchase or redeem lottery tickets, including scratch tickets. This age requirement is set by state law and applies to all lottery games offered by the Massachusetts State Lottery. So if you are under 18, you cannot legally cash in a winning scratch ticket in Massachusetts.

Age Requirement for Scratch Tickets in Massachusetts

The Massachusetts State Lottery oversees all lottery games in the state, including instant “scratch” tickets. Section 24A of Chapter 10 of the Massachusetts General Laws states that “no lottery sales agent shall sell and no person shall purchase a lottery ticket who is under eighteen years of age.” This law prohibits anyone under 18 from buying scratch tickets or any other lottery products in Massachusetts.

Additionally, the law states that “no prize shall be paid to a person under eighteen years of age.” So even if a minor received a winning scratch ticket as a gift or through other means, they would not be able to redeem it for a cash prize if they are under 18. The lottery retailer is required to verify the age of anyone trying to cash in a winning ticket.

This age restriction applies to all lottery prizes in Massachusetts, no matter how small. Even if it’s just a free $1 ticket prize, a person has to meet the minimum age to redeem it. The purpose of the law is to protect minors by preventing underage gambling.

Buying Scratch Tickets

To purchase a scratch ticket at a lottery retailer in Massachusetts, you must be at least 18 years old. Retailers are required to verify your age before selling any lottery products to you. Acceptable forms of ID include:

  • Driver’s license
  • State-issued ID card
  • Passport
  • Military ID

If you appear to be under 25, you should expect to show ID proving you meet the 18+ age requirement. Retailers can face penalties for selling scratch tickets to underage buyers, so they will check ID if there is any question of your age.

Some key points about buying scratch tickets:

  • You must be 18+ both at the time of purchase and at the time you claim any prize.
  • There is no exception for gifted tickets – minors cannot cash tickets received as gifts.
  • Lottery vending machines also require ID verification.
  • There are no exceptions for married minors or emancipated minors.

Bottom line – if you are not yet 18, you cannot legally purchase or cash in a scratch ticket in Massachusetts.

Claiming Prizes

To claim a prize on a winning scratch ticket in Massachusetts, you must meet the 18+ age requirement at the time you present the ticket. Retailers will verify your ID and age before paying out any lottery prize.

For larger scratch ticket prizes above $600, you must claim the prize at one of the Massachusetts State Lottery claim centers. Published winners have one year from the date of the drawing to claim their prize. Again, you must prove you meet the minimum age at the time you claim your prize.

Some key points about claiming scratch ticket prizes:

  • All scratch ticket prizes above $600 must be claimed in person at a lottery claim center.
  • For prizes $601-$5,000 you can choose to have the lottery pay you with a check or electronic funds transfer.
  • For prizes over $5,001, your only payout option is an electronic funds transfer.
  • You will need to complete a claim form and Winner Claim Form 5754 for tax reporting.
  • If you win on a scratch ticket while under 18, you must wait until you turn 18 to claim the prize.

The Massachusetts Lottery will not pay out any prize to someone under 18, no matter the circumstances. You become eligible to claim prizes and cash in winning scratch tickets on your 18th birthday.


In summary, the age requirement to purchase, possess, and cash in scratch tickets in Massachusetts is 18 across the board. This applies to buying scratch tickets at retail locations as well as claiming any prizes won on those tickets. Individuals must prove they are at least 18 years old at the time of purchase and at the time they claim prizes for any lottery winnings to be paid out. No exceptions are made for gifted tickets, married minors, or emancipated teenagers. Proof of age is strictly enforced by lottery retailers and claim centers in compliance with state law. So if you hope to play scratch tickets in Massachusetts, you must wait until you turn 18 to buy, scratch, or redeem any tickets.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why can’t minors play the lottery in Massachusetts?

Massachusetts prohibits minors under 18 from playing the lottery for a few key reasons:

  • Prevent underage gambling – Keeping minors from playing helps discourage unhealthy gambling behaviors.
  • Protect young people – Keeps lottery games age-appropriate by restricting them to adults.
  • Uphold state laws – Abides by state statutes setting age limits on gambling activities.
  • Avoid problems redeeming prizes – Minors can’t enter contracts, complicating prize claims.

The age restriction allows the Massachusetts Lottery to keep games appropriate for adult audiences. It also upholds laws prohibiting underage gambling.

Can you cash scratch tickets that were gifted to you?

No, you cannot legally cash scratch lottery tickets in Massachusetts if you received them as a gift and are under 18. Even if the ticket was purchased legally by an adult, the state’s age restriction applies both to purchasing tickets and redeeming prizes. Minors who receive scratch tickets as gifts must hold onto them until they turn 18 if they contain any winning prizes they wish to redeem. At that point, they can cash in the tickets like any other adult.

Can parents claim prizes for underage children?

Unfortunately, no. Parents cannot claim or redeem lottery prizes on behalf of their minor children in Massachusetts. Prizes can only be paid out to the person who purchased the winning ticket or scratch game. Since minors cannot legally purchase or claim lottery prizes, there is no way for a parent to redeem winnings from a minor’s ticket. Any winning tickets possessed by minors must be redeemed by the minor themselves once they turn 18.

Do you have to be 18 to claim free ticket prizes?

Yes, you must still be at least 18 years old to claim free ticket prizes in Massachusetts. Some scratch games award free $1 or $2 tickers as instant prizes. However, these are still considered lottery prizes, so they can only be redeemed by adult ticket holders. The minimum age applies to all lottery prize redemptions, regardless of the prize amount.

Penalties for Violating Age Restrictions

There are penalties in place for both minors and retailers who violate the scratch ticket age restrictions in Massachusetts:

Penalties for Underage Buyers

If a minor purchases a scratch ticket or attempts to claim a prize, the lottery winnings will be forfeited and no payout will be made. In addition, the minor may face:

  • A $100 fine for purchase attempt
  • Mandatory completion of a seminar on gambling disorders
  • Community service requirements

Law enforcement has discretion on penalties. Repeat violations can draw fines up to $500 for subsequent offenses.

Penalties for Retailers

Lottery retailers face much steeper penalties for allowing minors to purchase tickets or redeem prizes:

  • 1st offense – $5,000 fine
  • 2nd offense – $10,000 fine and possible suspension of lottery license
  • 3rd offense – $15,000 fine and revocation of lottery license

Retailers can also face criminal charges for repeat violations. License suspensions or revocations can put merchants out of the lottery business entirely. That is why clerks are trained to diligently check IDs and enforce age restrictions.

Ways Retailers Verify Age

Lottery retailers use a variety of methods to verify a customer’s age before selling scratch tickets:

  • ID checks – Require valid photo ID proving age 18+ for any lottery purchase.
  • Signage – Post age restriction notices prominently in stores.
  • Age verification equipment – Use electronic card readers or facial recognition to estimate age.
  • Clerk training – Ensure staff understand and enforce age policies.
  • Test shoppers – Send underage buyers to test clerk compliance with age rules.

Following proper age verification procedures allows retailers to stay in compliance with the law. It also prevents them from facing any penalties for mistakenly allowing underage lottery sales.

Statistics on Underage Lottery Play in Massachusetts

Despite age restrictions, some minors still manage to illegally purchase and play lottery games in Massachusetts:

  • According to a 2020 state survey, around 9% of minors ages 14-17 reported purchasing lottery tickets in the past year.
  • About 16% of minors said they asked someone else to buy tickets for them.
  • Only 58% of retailers assessed failed underage compliance checks for lottery sales.
  • Cigarette retailers were more compliant, with 90% passing underage checks.
  • Younger teens ages 14-15 were able to buy lottery tickets at a rate of 22%.

These statistics indicate that a significant number of underage lottery sales slip through despite age restrictions. The Massachusetts Lottery Commission continues public education campaigns to deter illegal sales.

U.S. Statistics on Underage Lottery Play

Studies across the U.S. show similar rates of minors bypassing lottery age limits:

  • About 10-20% of high school students nationwide report recently purchasing lottery tickets.
  • States with the highest rates above 20% include Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, and West Virginia.
  • Only 17 states meet industry best practice standards for preventing underage lottery sales.
  • Lacking enforcement puts states at risk of losing eligibility for Powerball and Mega Millions.

While the majority of minors do follow lottery age laws, ongoing educational and enforcement efforts are still needed to reduce illegal sales.

Educational Campaigns on Underage Lottery Laws

To reinforce lottery age requirements, the Massachusetts Lottery runs regular public education campaigns aimed at minors and retailers:

Programs Aimed at Minors

  • Classroom presentations on gambling disorders and age limits.
  • Social media posts highlighting the illegality of underage play.
  • Posters in schools warning students not to ask others to buy tickets.
  • Messages noting minors cannot redeem gifted tickets.

These initiatives help get the word out directly to minors that lottery play is strictly prohibited.

Efforts Aimed at Retailers

  • Retailer guidelines emphasizing importance of ID checks.
  • Warning posters about penalties for underage sales.
  • Stings using underage test buyers to check compliance.
  • Training videos on how to spot fake IDs.

Outreach to retailers focuses on reinforcing legal requirements and potential penalties for violations. Ongoing education is designed to promote vigilance in enforcing minimum age laws.

History of the Age Restriction

Massachusetts initially set the minimum lottery age at 21 when it launched its lottery in 1972. At the time, 21 was the standard age of adulthood. The state lowered the minimum age to 18 in 1984:

  • 1972 – Lottery launches, minimum age set at 21.
  • 1973 – 26 states participated in inaugural interstate lottery game.
  • 1974 – Massachusetts lottery sales top $200 million in first full year.
  • 1978 – Minnesota becomes first state to lower lottery age to 18.
  • 1984 – Massachusetts follows suit, changes minimum age to 18.
  • 2021 – Nearly $6 billion in annual MA lottery sales.

Lowering the age to 18 aligned with the adoption of 18 as the standard legal voting age. Today, Massachusetts and all states with lotteries require players to be at least 18. A few states like Arizona allow minors to redeem gifted tickets. But buying and claiming prizes generally requires adulthood.

Perspective from Opponents of Lottery Age Limits

While age limits enjoy widespread public support, some groups advocate for lowering or eliminating lottery age restrictions:

  • Legal adulthood is 18 in most states, so adults should have full rights.
  • Older teens 16+ are capable of responsible play.
  • Limiting lottery play could drive minors to illicit games.
  • Law should override family gift rules.
  • Earnings should benefit good causes despite age issues.

However, the mainstream view is that age limits protect both minors and the integrity of state lotteries. For now, age 18 requirements remain firmly in place for buying scratch tickets and redeeming prizes.

Key Takeaways

  • You must be at least 18 years old to legally purchase and cash in scratch lottery tickets in Massachusetts.
  • State law prohibits retailers from selling to and paying out prizes to individuals under 18.
  • ID verification is required both when buying scratch tickets and when claiming prizes.
  • Penalties apply to both minors and retailers who violate the age laws.
  • Ongoing education reminds residents about the age restrictions.
  • Scratch games are intended for adult entertainment only.


The Massachusetts lottery age requirement aims to keep minors from participating in games of chance meant for adult entertainment. By setting and enforcing a minimum age of 18, the state hopes to prevent underage gambling and any associated problems. Retailers are tasked with checking IDs and restricting sales only to adult customers. Ongoing public outreach also reminds residents that you must be 18 or older both at the time of purchase and prize redemption to take part in any lottery games. While not universally supported, the age limit has proven an important safeguard to ensure responsible lottery policies benefitting both players and state revenues. Going forward, Massachusetts is likely to maintain its age 18 standard for the foreseeable future.