N.J. Gov. Christie Signs New Gambling Bill
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On July 31, New Jersey’s Governor Chris Christie signed a new “self-exclusion” bill into law. The new law is designed to give individuals the ability to request brick-and-mortar and online casinos to exclude them from being able to place wagers with the facility or site. The bill ((A2444) passed the assembly with a unanimous vote in March and later passed the state senate.

Focus of the New Law
In the past, New Jersey residents could request a self-imposed ban. However, many casinos and online sites would also require that the player submit an attached document essentially admitting that they had a gambling problem. Because of this requirement, some people were reluctant to seek the casino’s help. According to Assemblyman Ralph R. Caputo (D-Essex), “Admitting on a document that you are a problem gambler is a step many New Jerseyans may not be ready to make, even if they are confronting their problem.” He added, “Many may feel the document is a stigma that can be used against them, but with this option, they can now get some help without having to make that potentially embarrassing admission.” Under the new law, people can simply fill out a written request to be banned.

Provisions of the Law
According to the new law, individuals can request a one-year, five-year or lifetime exclusion. Once the request has been approved, the casino is obligated to cease any marketing efforts to that particular individual. Additionally, the casino then has the right to refuse wagers, can have the individual removed from the premises, and they can refuse to pay out any winnings or refund any losses if that individual is inadvertently allowed to gamble.

Why was the New Law Deemed Necessary
As the gambling industry continues an unprecedented expansion throughout the world, many local, state and national governments have had to consider the overall effects of increased gambling within the its communities. One of the key issues that seems to always inspire heated debate is the effects of problem gambling. Anti-gambling activist insist that problem gambling issues will lead to an increase in crimes such as armed robbery and theft. This places a real stigma on people who step forward and admit they have a gambling problem. Faced with the prospect of public condemnation, many people will choose to keep things to themselves. The executive director of the Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey, Donald Weinbaum, recently said that admitting to a gambling problem is extremely personal. It might be the reason that New Jersey has signed up only 1,800 people on its list.

Other Self-Exclusion Programs
They are currently 6-7 states with self-exclusion programs. Most experts consider some of these programs lacking in the support they need to be successful. In Nevada, the current rules bring very little to no protection for the problem gambler. According to Keith Copher, head of the Nevada Gaming Control Board’s enforcement division, “A person who puts himself on (an excluded list) can just walk into the casino and ask to be removed from the list.” This comes from a state that asserts itself as the gambling capital of the world. At the other end of the spectrum, the self-exclusion program in Missouri seems to be working quite well. The law permits casinos to have self-excluded individuals with lifetime bans arrested for trespassing if they even try to enter the casino. It is noteworthy that Missouri residents do not have to admit to problem gambling when they submit their request. The state currently shows more than 3,000 people signed up on the list and growing every month.

Online Casinos
Most online casinos support a self-exclusion policy. However, it is very easy for problem gamblers to simply open up another account or move their business to one of over a thousand available online casinos. The real challenge for the online gambling industry will be to establish some type of uniformity before they can successfully support these types of programs. In Europe, the EU has recently expressed a desire to seek new laws designed to protect problem gamblers from sites that advertise to its citizens.

The New Jersey law goes into effect immediately. It will be interesting to see how fast the lists expands with the removal of the problem gambling requirement. Perhaps, the New Jersey bill will serve as a model for other states throughout the country that currently allow casino or online gambling.