New Year, New Responsible Gambling Bills (Sort Of) From New Jersey Lawmakers

Written By David Danzis on February 13, 2024 - Last Updated on February 26, 2024
Dome of the New Jersey Statehouse for a story on bills introduced to help improve responsible gambling efforts in New Jersey

The new year brought a new legislative session to New Jersey’s state capital, and lawmakers are reintroducing a handful of responsible gambling measures.

As online gambling options grow in popularity, acceptance and accessibility, politicians around the country are increasingly trying to grapple with how to protect and aid vulnerable populations while not impeding a regulated and taxed industry.

New Jersey is a pioneer in both land-based and online gambling, so it’s only natural that the Garden State is at the forefront of those legislative discussions. The latest series of bills highlights the areas of focus for lawmakers.

Among the proposals brought back in 2024 is a bill to create a statewide gambling treatment diversion court. An unrelated bill in the New Jersey legislature would make compulsive gambling prevention, education and treatment programs an optional penalty for those convicted of underage gambling.

A thought-provoking proposal to require gambling addiction and prevention education in health classes at the state’s public high schools is also on the docket this year.

Finally, there is a bill that would force colleges to create gambling prevention awareness programs if they partner with a sports betting operator.

Here’s a more detailed explanation o the proposed NJ responsible gambling bills for the current legislative session (2024-2025).

Gambling addiction treatment courts proposed for NJ

Senate President Nicholas Scutari reintroduced a bill (S2272) in January to establish a gambling treatment diversion court.

The premise is comparable to NJ’s objectively successful drug courts (now called recovery courts), which prioritize addiction treatment over incarceration. If a person commits, and is convicted of, a gambling-related crime, a judge could opt for gambling diversion treatment rather than jail.

New Jersey would join Nevada and Ohio as the only other gambling court programs in the country. Nevada’s gambling court was established in 2018. Ohio launched its gambling diversion treatment court in 2023.

The rationale for Scutari’s proposal, according to the bill’s text, is that gambling expansion, such as online casinos in New Jersey and NJ sports betting, can “create unrestrained opportunity for persons with problem gambling or disordered gambling to become engulfed in destructive behaviors.”

S2272 has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Court-ordered responsible gambling programs in the cards?

The state court system is also involved in another bill reintroduced for the current legislative session.

S1242 deals with those convicted of underage gambling. Under the proposal, New Jersey judges could opt to send someone to a program, such as those provided by the Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey, rather than imposing a fine for the infraction.

Currently, anyone under the age of 21 who gambles at an Atlantic City casino is subject to a fine between $500 and $1,000. According to the bill’s text, a judge could still impose the fine but also require educational and prevention programs.

S1242 has been referred to the Senate State Government, Wagering, Tourism & Historic Preservation Committee.

Proposal a reintroduction of bill that stalled last year

Assemblywoman Garnet Hall, in her first term as a state legislator, is the driving force behind the bill.

But that hasn’t stopped her from pushing ahead with A1711, a reintroduction of a bill that stalled in committee in 2022-23. Hall is the lead sponsor of a bill requiring NJ high schools to teach students about gambling addiction in health class.

According to the bill’s text, students will learn about:

  • the dangers of gambling addiction;
  • taking risks with personal finances or personal assets;
  • and probability versus predictability.

A1711 has been referred to the Assembly Education Committee.

If putting the cart before the horse was a law

PlayNJ has written about A1715 before, although it was listed under a different bill number in 2022/23. As noted by our staff in 2023, this proposal aims to address a non-existent issue.

Hall is sponsoring this piece of legislation as well.

According to the bill’s text, A1715 would require “public institutions of higher education,” also known as state colleges and universities, to establish “gambling addiction prevention programs.”

The well-intentioned proposal only applies to public schools that are “participating in a sports wagering partnership with a sports wagering operator or intermediary.” For the record, the number of colleges or universities that caveat applies to is exactly zero.

Following some highly publicized and heavily scrutinized deals between legal sportsbooks and colleges elsewhere in the country, most operators and schools immediately backed out of those arrangements and canceled their partnerships. No NJ college ever publicly entertained the notion of partnering with a legal sportsbook.

A1715 has been referred to the Assembly Higher Education Committee.

Photo by Mel Evans / AP Photo
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David Danzis

David Danzis is the lead writer for PlayNJ. He is a New Jersey native and honors graduate of Rutgers University. As a newspaper reporter for the New Jersey Herald and Press of Atlantic City, David earned statewide awards for his coverage of politics, government, education, sports, and business. Today, he is PlayNJ’s Atlantic City “insider” and gaming industry expert on casinos, sports betting, and online gambling. David lives in Atlantic County, NJ with his wife and two children.

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