New Jersey’s battle against underage gambling gained ground with the introduction of Senate Bill 1599 (S-1599). This bill targets Atlantic City casinos, offering alternative penalties and support for young individuals struggling with compulsive gambling. Currently, underage gambling results in fines ranging from $500 to $1000. But if enacted, judges would grant judges the discretion to impose fines, compulsive gambling treatment programs, or a combination of both.
This bill was introduced by Senator James Beach and co-sponsored by Senator Shirley K. Turner. As per its goal, it presents a new approach to combating underage gambling in Atlantic City. More specifically, the underage gambling bill grants judges the option to require compulsive gambling prevention, education, and treatment programs. They shall serve as alternative penalties for individuals under the legal gambling age in NJ, which is 21.
Senator James Beach has shed light on the issue of excessive gambling by regarding it as a “serious issue of growing concern among teens. Fortunately, the proposed underage gambling bill was advanced by the Senate with a 5-0 vote at the beginning of May. Afterward, he issued a statement where he spoke on the importance of the bill prioritizing treatment over fines in an attempt to help young individuals with their excessive gambling tendencies:
“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. We hope that this can help to address unhealthy relationships with gambling and prevent kids from becoming repeat offenders.”Senator James Beach
While the proposed bill aims to tackle underage gambling, some skeptics question whether it addresses the core issue. Data from the state Division of Gaming Enforcement reveals that underage gambling in Atlantic City casinos may not be as widespread as previously thought. Instead, local legal online casinos New Jersey face more frequent penalties for permitting excluded individuals to gamble than for allowing gamblers under the legal age to gamble in Atlantic City to wager. Critics argue that the new legislation may be misdirected, focusing on a problem that is not the primary concern. Furthermore, the statistics suggest that alternative strategies should be explored more effectively to combat underage gambling in New Jersey.
As the debate about the Underage Gambling Bill continues, another adversary emerges: online gambling. This type of gambling has experienced explosive growth over recent years. Hence, it surpasses traditional brick-and-mortar casinos in terms of both popularity and convenience. Online platforms make it easier for underage individuals to engage in gambling activities due to their accessibility and anonymity.
Felicia Grondon, the executive director for the Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey also commented on this issue. She actually added that online gambling also constitutes a heightened threat to individuals below the legal gambling age New Jersey. She applauds the bill, regarding it as a favorable start. But her observations raise the question of whether the focus should shift toward regulating online gambling to protect vulnerable populations effectively. Grondom raises awareness of the popularity of online gambling and how accessible it is to young individuals:
“Online gambling is just as popular, if not more popular, than in-person, brick-and-mortar casino gambling and definitely much more accessible. […] And there’s more opportunity for kids to gamble online given the fact that one can hide their identity online.”Felicia Grondon, Executive Director for the Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey
New Jersey has been a pioneer in the realm of legalized gambling. In 2013, the state became the first in the US to allow online casino gambling. Then, it was followed by the authorization of online sports gambling in 2018. The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement has implemented protective measures against underage gambling for online gambling operators. These include two-factor authentication and monitoring user accounts for suspicious activity. These measures also aim to prevent fraudulent and problematic behavior associated with online gambling. New Jersey stands as the only state requiring licensed online gambling operators to follow these steps to ensure responsible gambling practices. So, besides this new underage gambling bill, another example in this sense would be the rather recent NJ gambling law, launched in February, this year.
The proposed underage gambling bill targeting Atlantic City casinos in New Jersey reflects the state’s commitment to addressing underage gambling. While the intentions behind the bill are admirable, critics argue that the focus should also be directed toward other sectors. That is online gambling, which poses a potentially greater threat to underage populations. As the landscape of gambling continues to evolve, policymakers and stakeholders must consider comprehensive strategies that encompass both physical casinos and online platforms. By implementing effective regulations and support systems, New Jersey can better protect its young population and ensure responsible gambling practices for all.