New Jersey Proposes Treatment Option for Underage Gamblers
New Jersey is proposing comprehensive legislation to address underage gambling, including compulsory treatment programs, school curriculum on gambling risks, restrictions on gambling advertisements, and a data-driven approach to identify and assist problem gamblers.
A Bill Before the New Jersey Senate Would Give Judges the Option to Require a Compulsive Gambling Treatment Program for Underage Gamblers at Atlantic City Casinos.
Online Underage Gambling Continues to be a Concern, with 60% of High School-Aged Adolescents Having Gambled for Money in the Past year.
New Jersey Also Has Proposed Legislation to Limit Gambling Advertising, Provide Youth Gambling Education, and Create a Gambling Diversion Court.
A bill currently before the New Jersey Senate would make compulsive gambling prevention, education, and treatment an option for addressing people caught gambling in local casinos before they turn twenty-one.
Treatment for Underage Gamblers
Current state law allows for those under twenty-one years old who enter or gamble at a New Jersey casino to be fined between $500 and $1,000 and found guilty of disorderly persons. Senate Bill 1599, co-sponsored by Senators James Beach (D, District 6), Shirley Turner (D, District 15), and Patrick Diegnan (D, District 18) would give courts the option to require a compulsive gambling treatment program in lieu of, or in addition to, the present fine.
“It is our hope that this can help to address unhealthy relationships with gambling and prevent kids from becoming repeat offenders,” said Sen. Beach. The proposed bill comes in the wake of a report by the National Council on Problem Gambling that approximately 60% of high school-aged adolescents report having gambled for money during the past year. 4% to 6% of adolescents are reported to have a serious problem with gambling.
SB 1599 is currently awaiting a potential vote on the New Jersey Senate floor. The New Jersey Senate State Government, Wagering, Tourism & Historic Preservation Committee voted unanimously to recommend its passage last week.
Online Underage Gambling
One potential oversight of SB 1599 is that it only addresses gambling that occurs at brick-and-mortar casinos.
“Online gambling is just as popular, if not more popular than in-person, brick-and-mortar casino gambling and definitely much more accessible,” Felicia Grondin, the executive director for the Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey, recently told NJ Spotlight News. “And there’s more opportunity for kids to gamble online given the fact that one can hide their identity online.”
The council’s school-level program, which focuses on risky behaviors, including gambling, is more necessary than ever according to Grondin. “Given the predominance of gambling in our state and in our country, as well as the excessive advertising, it’s going to affect our kids. They will view it as being very, very normal behavior. If they are not advised and educated as to the risks that are involved with gambling, they’re going to wind up in trouble,” she said.
Further Protections for Problem Gambling in New Jersey
SB 1599 is not New Jersey’s only attempt to guard against problem gambling. A5308, which is currently before the New Jersey Assembly Education Committee, would require school districts to instruct high school students about the risks of compulsive gambling as part of their health curriculum.
A5308 would require that “each school district that includes grades nine through 12, or any combination thereof, shall incorporate instruction on the potential risks of compulsive gambling into the curriculum for students as part of the district’s implementation of the New Jersey Student Learning Standards in Comprehensive Health and Physical Education.”
Assemblyman Daniel Bensontold Great.com that a key to curbing problem gambling is explaining how gambling works earlier. Students need to understand that “gambling is a form of entertainment, not a means to earn money,”said Benson.“No matter how good your fantasy team is, nothing is a sure bet.”
Another proposed bill before the New Jersey Assembly Education Committee, A5226, would prohibit sports betting advertisingat public collegesand universities in New Jersey. Similarly, AR168 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.
A group of assemblymen also recently proposed a Gambling Treatment Diversion Court Pilot Program. Those Assemblymen believe they “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.”
Finally, New Jersey Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin and the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) recently 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, the DGE will work with online wagering companies to use technology to identify and work to address at-risk patrons. Operators of gambling platforms 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 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 the 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.
New Jersey’s current framework for addressing gambling addiction consists 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.
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, bettors who are concerned with their gambling can employ available options on betting apps and 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.