In deterring underage gambling, states tend to simply punish such behavior without intervention. They don’t address why people are gambling at such a young age. For that reason, New Jersey could give its court system options to actually address the behavior.
A bill in the state legislature would expand the choices that state judges have in terms of people convicted of underage gambling. It represents the individuality of such people and that being caught gambling underage could be a mere symptom of a deeper issue.
S1599 could expand options for underage gambling aversion
S1599 is currently awaiting a potential vote on the New Jersey Senate floor. On May 18, the New Jersey Senate State Government, Wagering, Tourism & Historic Preservation Committee voted unanimously to recommend its passage.
The bill would alter the state’s code pertaining to people under the age of 21 convicted of being found on the gaming floors of Atlantic City casinos in a couple of important ways. First, it would make fines of up $1,000 optional for judges weighing sentencing.
Furthermore, judges could instead choose to mandate attendance of at least one compulsive gambling treatment session for such persons. Judges could also opt to issue both sanctions to some degree. This is the latest measure that New Jersey is taking to modernize its problem gambling interventions.
New Jersey’s overhaul of problem gambling prevention efforts
Earlier this year, New Jersey moved to give other options to judges in a related way. A separate bill, A420, takes a similar approach for people who are of legal gambling age in the state. Unfortunately, the bill has been sitting in committee since mid-March.
People over the age of 21 who are convicted of crimes and display symptoms of pathological gambling issues could take part in a gambling addiction diversion court instead of the traditional court system. Should A420 become law, that is.
Additionally, new regulations have established more standards for gambling advertisements. Furthermore, the state created a new state responsible gambling coordinator position. Should A420 and S1599 become law it could mean more opportunities for New Jersey to actually address behaviors instead of possibly contribute to the cause of such behavior.
Strengths, weaknesses of problem gambling proposals
Bobby Brier of NJ Spotlight News spoke with advocates for people with compulsive gambling issues on the changes that S1599 proposes. New Jersey Council on Compulsive Gambling Executive Director Felicia Grondin told Brier that the bill’s tenets represent a good start. There is one glaring weakness, however.
“Online gambling is just as popular, if not more popular, than in-person, brick-and-mortar casino gambling and definitely much more accessible,” said Felicia Grondin, the executive director for the Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey. “And there’s more opportunity for kids to gamble online given the fact that one can hide their identity online.”
It’s unclear if any senators will propose an amendment to include people under the age of 21 caught using gaming apps in the state in S1599’s tenets. Know Your Customer controls built into online casinos are normally effective at preventing such usage. However, there are still rare cases of such usage.
Even within the confines of gambling at physical casinos, the proposed change could be of benefit.
S1599’s sponsor, Sen. James Beach said, “it is our hope that this can help to address unhealthy relationships with gambling and prevent kids from becoming repeat offenders.” Participation in a compulsive gambling treatment session could identify whether such persons have such an issue and if so, provide treatment.
Simply fining such individuals might increase stress that they are using gambling as a method to cope with. Even if that isn’t the case, though, it would at the very least provide such individuals with new information to deter the development of such an issue.