But a bill recently introduced in the state Senate would add another component – and the bill passed by a 5-0 vote of the state Senate Government, Wagering, Tourism, and Historic Preservation Committee.
Democratic Party State Senators James Beach, Shirley Turner, and Patrick Diegnan co-sponsored a bill to give judges an option instead of the fine, or in addition to it, to “require any person who violates this to participate in a compulsive gambling prevention, education, and treatment program.”
While the bill passed in committee without discussion, Beach elaborated on his rationale in a 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.”
New Jersey’s casino regulations require that anyone under the age of 21 “shall not enter or wager in a licensed casino or simulcasting facility.”
The exception is for underage visitors to briefly walk on a casino floor while directly en route to a non-gaming area such as a restaurant or to a hotel elevator.
What’s Next for the Bill
The New Jersey Legislature traditionally goes on summer break on June 30, the end of the state’s fiscal year, after approving an annual budget that is signed into law by the Governor.
The legislature typically resumes in early September, but with all 120 legislative seats up for election this year, little business may be addressed in the Trenton statehouse before November.
But with no apparent opposition to the bill, it has a good chance of being one of dozens of bills to pass in single sessions of voting in the Senate and Assembly. However, an identical bill first would have to pass the Assembly Tourism, Gaming & The Arts Committee – which has not yet scheduled its next session.
That committee is run by Assemblyman Ralph Caputo, who spent most of his career as an Atlantic City casino executive and who has been the leading backer of countless gambling-related bills in recent years.
Once Gov. Phil Murphy signs the bill – and there is no indication that he would not – then the Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey (CCGNJ) would be asked to develop the rehabilitation program for underage gamblers.
Funding for the CCGNJ comes from the New Jersey Lottery and from the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement, which oversees and regulates all forms of gambling in NJ.
The Extent of the Underage Gambling Problem
Research by the National Council on Problem Gambling concluded that 4% to 5% of those aged 12 to 17 “meet one or more criteria of having a gambling problem.”
Another 10% to 14% were found to be at risk of developing a gambling addiction.
Between 60% and 80% of high school students report having gambled for money during the past year, according to NCPG research, which also found that boys are more likely than girls to gamble and experience gambling problems.
“Yet for most parents and teens, gambling is seen as an innocuous behavior with few negative consequences,” the NCPG warns, adding that parents should not give lottery tickets as gifts to their teenage children.
Warning signs of a compulsive teen gambler include large amounts of unexplained cash; willingness to sell personal belongings; numerous calls coming from strangers; no hesitation about using a credit card to gamble; and withdrawal from social groups or activities.
The agency says that supervised, small-scale gambling for teens can be acceptable – such as a friendly poker game. But if the amount of money in “the pot” becomes too large, parents should step in. The same would be the case if one player attempts to write an “IOU” for money owed that the player does not currently have.