March 23, 2023
New Jersey Legislation Tackles Problem Gambling
Discover how New Jersey legislators tackle gambling addiction with the proposed Gambling Treatment Diversion Court Pilot Program, bills to limit sports betting ads, and education on compulsive gambling risks in high schools – learn more about the state’s multi-pronged approach.
- Joint Assembly Democrats Recently Proposed Legislation to Establish Three Gambling Courts to Address Gambling Addicts Who Commit Minor Offenses.
- Assemblyman Ralph Caputo Also Introduced Bills to Prohibit Sports Betting Advertising at Public Colleges and University and Require School Districts to Teach the Risks of Compulsive Gambling.
- The Responsible Gaming Initiative, Which Went into Effect in February, Requires Gaming Platforms to Proactively Monitor Users for Signs of Problem Gaming
While New Jersey casinos attempt to regain pre-pandemic level profits, local legislatures are trying to ensure that gambling addiction does not rise as well.
In furtherance of this goal, Assembly Democrats Ralph Caputo (D-Essex), Dan Benson (D-Mercer, Middlesex), and Anthony Verrelli (D-Hunterdon, Mercer) introduced A420 Wednesday to create a Gambling Treatment Diversion Court Pilot Program.
Caputo, Benson and Verrelli issued a joint statement in support of the legislation, stating that, “We should be helping those with gambling addictions who have committed minor offenses, not imprisoning them. With the three locations throughout the State, we will be able to provide services for everyone referred to the Gambling Treatment Diversion Court Pilot Program.”
Establishing New Jersey Gambling Courts
The proposed bill calls for the establishment of three gambling courts: one in the northern region of the State, another in the central region, and a final location in the southern region of New Jersey. These three courts, alongside associated health professionals, would determine if the person convicted is eligible to join the program or if they require more extreme consequences.
The biggest detractor from the proposed bill may be the exact place legislators expect to send problem gamblers: the courts. Andrea Johnson of the New Jersey Administrative Office of the Courts told lawmakers the courts system supports the spirit of a diversionary court. However, she urged legislatures to divert these offenders to existing diversionary programs rather than create a new program at a time when courts are overwhelmed by record-high judicial vacancies.
Limiting Sports Betting Advertising and Providing Gambling Education
In addition to A420, Caputo also introduced two other bills aimed at curbing gambling addiction. A5226 would prohibit sports betting advertising at public colleges and universities in New Jersey, while A5308 would require school districts to instruct high school students about the risks of compulsive gambling as part of their health curriculum.
These two bills come in the wake of concerning findings about underage gambling. Although the legal age of gambling is 21 in New Jersey, The National Center on Problem Gambling estimates up to 6% of kids ages 12 to 17 have a gambling problem, while up to 14% are at risk of developing an addiction.
Caputo chairs the Assembly’s tourism, gaming, and the arts committee, which unanimously advanced the second two bills on Monday.
Caputo is not anti-gaming. On the contrary, he is a former casino executive and longtime champion of gambling in New Jersey. Caputo also authored A2190, which would extend the sunset provision of legislation legalizing online gaming to 2033. He also was behind a failed 2016 effort to allow slot machines at New Jersey racetracks.
Caputo said he introduced his newest legislation on Monday to fight addiction, which he referred to as gambling’s “unintended consequences.”
“We all voted for these things, but at this point, there’s some negative impact of some of the things that we did do, and we’re trying to pull it back a little bit,” he told the New Jersey Monitor.
The committee split along party lines on a separate resolution, AR168, that urges the Assembly to condemn the “overproliferation” of pro-gambling advertisements in New Jersey due to the addictiveness of gambling and urge sports betting companies and casinos “to exercise restraint and good judgment” in advertising.
Caputo argued that casinos’ and betting companies’ “fight for revenue is just getting out of hand. And that’s what it is — it’s a vicious fight for market share. And the public is suffering for it. This advertising is way over the top.”
Assemblyman Don Guardian (R-Atlantic), who served as Atlantic City’s mayor from 2014 to 2018, voted against the resolution with the panel’s other two Republicans because “internet and sports gaming are in their infancy.”
“The only way that they expand is to advertise, and the more advertising they do, the better they do,” Guardian said. “So, I can’t be hypocritical if, as a state, we’re so excited about having internet and sports gaming and collecting 200-plus million dollars in taxes just on those two types of gaming, and then say no, the one way that you can’t promote it is to advertise.”
The Responsible Gaming Initiative
Caputo’s proposed legislation comes shortly after New Jersey Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin and the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) announced a new Responsible Gaming Initiative to identify and help problem gamblers by using information collected by online gaming operators regarding patrons’ playing habits.
As part of this new initiative, which went into effect after the Super Bowl, theDGE will work with online wagering companies to use technology to identify and work to address at-risk patrons. Operators of gambling platforms in New Jersey are now required to analyze electronically maintained player data to determine whether a patron is showing signs of problem gambling behavior.
Operators of online wagering platforms already train staff members who interact with players to identify red flags indicative of a gambling disorder. This new initiative ensures that data, not just an observation by platform personnel, is used to pinpoint players who might need help and provides for dedicated gaming personnel to reach out to them.
In addition to problematic play, platforms will watch for account activity that could indicate problem gambling, including deposits of thousands of dollars made in a short span of time, or a player making multiple requests in a 24-hour span to increase the limits on deposits or losses.
Prior to the Responsible Gaming Initiative, New Jersey’s framework for addressing gambling addiction consisted of the self-exclusion system, a requirement that all gambling advertisements include certain responsible gaming language, and wagering options for patrons to select to monitor and control the amount of time and funds they spend on gambling, including time and deposit limits.
Rather than requiring gamblers to recognize when they have a problem and need to seek help this new initiative provides proactive outreach to make patrons aware of habits they are exhibiting and assist the patron with guidance, information, and options to consider for their use in the future.
Anyone in New Jersey who is struggling with a gambling problem is encouraged to call or text the state’s free helpline 1– 800-GAMBLER for confidential support. Additionally, gamers who are concerned with their betting can employ available options on gaming websites, including 72-hour or longer “cool off” periods, one and five-year self-exclusions, self-imposed deposit or loss limits, or permanent self-exclusion through the DGE.