New Jersey Bill Could Make Compulsive Gambling Treatment Mandatory for Underage Gamblers

Underage gamblers caught in New Jersey casinos could face mandatory compulsive gambling treatment if new legislation passes. The bill would give courts the power to require treatment for underage offenders.

Under current New Jersey law, those under 21 who enter or gamble at a casino are guilty of a disorderly persons offense and can be fined between $500 and $1000. If this law passes, courts will be able to fine, send offenders to treatment, or combine penalties.

Following the bill unanimously clearing its Senate committee, Sen. James Beach (D-Burlington), a primary sponsor, said in an online statement:

Gambling addictions are a serious issue and a growing concern among teens. This legislation will help to connect underage gamblers with treatment, rather than hitting them with fines which can have a disproportionate impact on low income families.

It is our hope that this can help to address unhealthy relationships with gambling and prevent kids from becoming repeat offenders.

Gambling Addiction a Growing Concern for US Youth

According to the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG), at least 60% of adolescents (12-17) in the last year reported gambling for money.

Among the youths that gamble, 4-6% have a serious gambling problem. Another 10-14% show warning signs of losing control and an increased risk of addictive gambling behaviors.

Problem gambling advocates have said that while the new legislation is a start, it’s too narrowly focused on retail casinos.

New Jersey’s Council on Compulsive Gambling (CCGNJ) offers a program for middle and high schoolers focused on risky behaviors (including gambling). It also operates 800-Gambler, a 24/7 confidential gambling helpline.

Felicia Grondin, the CCGNJ’s executive director, told NJ Spotlight News:

Online gambling is just as popular, if not more popular, than in-person, brick-and-mortar casino gambling and definitely much more accessible. And there’s more opportunity for kids to gamble online given the fact that one can hide their identity.

Grondin is right about the popularity of online casinos.

In April, New Jersey’s total gambling revenue increased by 9.5% over last year. But the month also saw revenue from land-based casinos in New Jersey fall by 1.6%.

However, it would be difficult for underage gamblers to bypass the Know Your Customer (KYC) protocols required on a regulated gambling site.

So, if teens are gambling online, the question becomes where and how they’re gaining access.

State Has “Duty to Protect” New Jersey Public

The new legislation is the latest in a string of efforts to curb problem gambling in New Jersey.

In March, state lawmakers advanced legislation to pilot a gambling treatment diversion court. In this case, the program would focus on people whose gambling resulted in a legal conviction.

Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin shared additional efforts to counter problem gambling in his keynote at the East Coast Gaming Congress in Atlantic City in April.

During that address, Platkin announced simplified access to the state self-exclusion program and tighter advertising standards.

The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) would also hire a Responsible Gaming Coordinator to lead state RG initiatives.

Said Platkin:

As New Jersey’s gaming and sports wagering industries continue to grow and mature, so do our obligations to assist patrons who are at risk for problem gambling.

DGE director David Rebuck was also present at the announcement and added:

We have seen tremendous growth in sports wagering and online gaming in New Jersey. In the face of that boom, we have a duty to protect the public from advertising that could be misleading or harmful. And for those in the grip of gambling addiction, we need to offer as many exit ramps from their condition as possible.

About the Author

Robyn McNeil

Robyn McNeil

Robyn McNeil (she/they) is a Nova Scotia-based writer and editor, and a lead writer at Bonus. Here she focuses on news relevant to online casinos, while specializing in responsible gambling coverage, legislative developments, gambling regulations, and industry-related legal fights.
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