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NJ Eyes No-Shame Change to Casino Self-Exclusion

New Jersey is considering letting people ban themselves from casino or Internet gambling without having to admit they have a gambling problem.

Atlantic City Skyline
Atlantic City skyline (Jerry Driendl, Getty Images)

The state’s voluntary self-exclusion lists permit people to sign up to request that they not be admitted to casinos or allowed to gamble online. But the law currently requires them to attest that they have a gambling problem.

A bill that cleared a state Assembly committee on Thursday would let people sign up for the lists without having to admit they are compulsive gamblers.

Donald Weinbaum, head of the state’s Council on Compulsive Gambling, said the change would take away some of the stigma of signing up for the lists.

“Our concern was that some people would not be comfortable with the labeling,” he said. “We should not put up barriers for anyone who wishes to self-exclude. The terminology is really important. We have heard from a number of community members who questioned why they need to label themselves, or give any reason at all to self-exclude.”

The state lets people choose whether the bans are for one year, five years or life. There are currently 1,575 names on the two lists, one for casino gambling and the other for Internet gambling, said Lisa Spengler, a spokeswoman for the state Division of Gaming Enforcement.

“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,” said Assemblyman Ralph Caputo, an Essex County Democrat who is chairman of the Tourism and Gaming committee. “Many may feel that document is a stigma that can be used against them, but with this option, they are getting some help without having to make that potentially embarrassing admission.”

Names on the list are not made public.

“We typically don’t make those recovering from substance abuse sign documents admitting their problem, so let’s not hold those fighting to recover from gambling addiction to a more difficult standard,” Assemblyman John Burzichelli added. “This can help many people get the help they need without embarrassing them.”

The same Assembly committee also advanced a bill requiring casinos to put cameras in every stairwell, including parking garages. The cameras must provide casino security staff with clear and continuous visual monitoring and recording of all activity throughout the stairwell at all times.

Recorded material must include the date and time of its recording and must be preserved for at least one year.

“There is coverage in our casinos when it comes to the money-making operations,” Assemblyman Troy Singleton said. “There are cameras that cover every inch of the casino floor. We also need to have diligence for the patrons of the casinos.”

Said Caputo: “It would be important in terms of the image of Atlantic City to project an image of safety. One of the big problems in Atlantic City is that people don’t feel safe.”

Both bills now go to the full Assembly.

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