Bill would let NJ residents sign up for no-gambling list without admitting problem

New Jersey keeps lists of people who have self-excluded themselves from gaming activity, either at Atlantic City casinos and online or just online. But in order to get on the lists, an applicant has to acknowledge he or she is a “problem gambler.”

For some, that’s a step too far, according to those who deal with gambling addicts.

“This is an option for people who are thinking about whether they have a problem, perhaps trying to buy time, as well as those who do know they have a problem,” said Donald Weinbaum, executive director of the Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey. “It has become clear over the years that the need to affirmatively declare is actually a barrier. People we’ve been in touch with are thinking. They’re not sure what they want to call themselves.”

The Senate state government committee approved the bill (A2444), which was passed by the Assembly in March, by a vote of 5-0. It now heads for a vote in the full state Senate.

Weinbaum said about 1,800 people in New Jersey have signed up for the lists – 1,426 for casino and internet gambling, and 366 for internet only.

Weinbaum said Pennsylvania has a similar list that does not require applicants to acknowledge they have a problem, and that got more sign-ups in one year than New Jersey’s has in more than a decade.

“We do believe it will encourage more people to take a step towards recovery,” he said.

Casinos are barred from marketing to people whose names appear on the lists. Casino workers are also allowed to refuse wagers to those on the list and ask them to leave the gambling area. If a person on the list does gamble, he or she would not be allowed to collect winnings or recover losses.

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