New Jersey politicians are calling for comprehensive legislation to address the growing issue of underage gambling in a concerted attempt to battle this critical topic. The proposed measure, which won unanimous backing from a Senate committee, proposes to impose sanctions and mandatory treatment programmes for anyone under the age of 21 who are caught gambling in state casinos.
Penalties and Mandatory Treatment Programs
Individuals under the age of 21 who enter or play at a casino are guilty of a disorderly people offence, punishable by fines ranging from $500 to $1,000, according to current state legislation. The newly proposed legislation intends to provide courts discretionary authority to fine offenders, subject them to compulsive gambling treatment, or both. The primary goal of this effort is to intervene early and prevent young people from establishing dangerous gambling connections.
Addressing the Prevalence of Underage Gambling
Statistics show that nearly 60% of high school-aged adolescents in New Jersey had gambled for money in the previous year, emphasizing the importance of combating underage gambling. Furthermore, according to the National Council on issue Gambling, 4% to 6% of teenagers have a serious gambling issue. Recognizing the negative impact of gambling on young lives, Senator James Beach (D-Burlington), a prominent supporter of the bill, emphasizes the significance of preventing repeat offences and promoting healthier alternatives.
“It is our hope that this can help to address unhealthy relationships with gambling and prevent kids from becoming repeat offenders,” said Sen. James Beach (D-Burlington), a primary sponsor of the bill.
Expanding Focus to Online Gambling
While the proposed regulation primarily targets casino gambling, advocates claim that due to its popularity and accessibility, online gambling poses an equal, if not larger, risk. Felicia Grondin, executive director of the Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey, emphasizes the importance of addressing the prevalence of online gambling among minors.
“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.”
Grondin’s organization has taken preventive measures by launching a programme in middle and high schools across the state to teach young people about the dangers of risky behaviors such as gambling.
“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,” Grondin said. “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.
Comprehensive Legislative Efforts
The current law, which was unanimously approved by a Senate committee, is one of numerous legislative efforts in New Jersey to combat problem gambling. Legislators introduced legislation in March to establish a pilot programme for a gambling treatment diversion court. This programme, supervised by mental-health specialists, provides counselling, support groups, and referrals to social-service agencies to individuals with gambling disorders who have faced legal ramifications. Furthermore, state officials have announced intentions to expand the self-exclusion programme, which will allow people suffering from gambling disorders to voluntarily restrict themselves from gaming in Atlantic City casinos, both in person and online.
The Role of Universities
National experts emphasize the critical role that colleges play in tackling the issue of student gambling. Alan Feldman, a distinguished scholar at the International Gaming Institute at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, emphasizes college students’ vulnerability to gambling-related hazards. He urges colleges to adopt a proactive approach to preventing gambling-related concerns among their student populations by enforcing policies and establishing support networks.
“For the most part, universities in the United States have a single line in their student handbook that says something about either you shouldn’t gamble or you may not gamble, but unfortunately there’s no enforcement, there’s no follow up,” said Alan Feldman, a distinguished fellow at the International Gaming Institute at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
“It would be really healthy to do that on college campuses, not only because the universities themselves are signing deals and beginning to engage in benefitting from sports gambling, but the fact is that that’s a very vulnerable audience,” he said.
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