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New Jersey set to create treatment program for gambling addicts

New Jersey sports betting

New Jersey, one of the states in the United States with a vibrant gambling scene, is moving closer to establishing a gambling addiction diversion court similar to the one in Nevada to help convicted gambling addicts. The move came when on March 20, Bill A420 proposing the creation of gambling diversionary courts in the state got a unanimous vote from the state’s Tourism, Gaming and Arts Committee.

Initially introduced by Assembly Democrats Ralph Caputo (D-Essex), Dan Benson (D-Mercer, Middlesex), and Anthony Verrelli (D-Hunterdon, Mercer), Bill A420 seeks to help gambling addicts who have been convicted of minor, nonviolent offenses. This will be done through a pilot program designed to treat gambling addicts who have committed a crime because of their addiction or to aid their addiction.

The bill proposes the creation of three gambling courts to be situated in the northern, central and southern regions of the state. The courts and its employed mental health professionals will then decide who is eligible to join the treatment program or who needs to be referred for more stringent punitive measures.

The bill lays out other propositions such as terms of treatment, minimum standards for the program and system of rehabilitation for the recovering addicts. It adds that the program will be overseen by the Administrative Office of the Courts.

In a joint statement supporting the bill’s introduction, Caputo, Benson and Verreli said: “We should be helping those with gambling addictions who have committed minor offenses, not imprisoning them. With the three locations throughout the State, we will be able to provide services for everyone referred to the Gambling Treatment Diversion Court Pilot Program.”

The bill is coming in response to the high number of gambling addicts recorded in the state.

Meanwhile, in response to the bill, a representative of the New Jersey Administrative Office of the Courts, Andrea Johnson, has told lawmakers that as much as the bill is commendable, it is best to not create a new program from scratch. She recommended that offenders be directed to existing diversionary programs due to the record-high judicial vacancies the courts are facing.

Whether the courts will be considered or the bill will go on as is remains to be seen. However, the vote from the New Jersey Tourism, Gaming and Arts Committee has moved the bill to the table of the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

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