If you're an avid radio listener or TV viewer in New Jersey, you likely haven't gone a day recently without hearing or seeing an advertisement for sports wagering, which became legal here one year ago.

Even hopping on mass transit adds yourself to the audience for these ads, many of which feature promotions such as risk-free bets and bonus money for new players.

While the ads may tell folks to "gamble responsibly," that's easier said than done for the countless New Jersey residents struggling to keep a compulsive gambling habit in check.

"It can easily work as a trigger for people who already have a gambling problem," said Lia Nower, director of the Center for Gambling Studies at the Rutgers School of Social Work. "Or it could help to escalate their play, their frequency of play, their intensity of play."

Nower said the "very appealing" ads are "everywhere," including at train stops.

"And people define 'responsibly' differently," she said.

State law requires that these and other advertisements for gambling include a mention of the 1-800-GAMBLER helpline.

From September 2018 through April 2019, 17.8% of calls to the Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey cited sports gambling as either a primary or secondary problem. That's compared to 2% to 10% in any given period prior to legalization last June.

"We anticipate a leveling off period but still expect to see calls continue to be higher than historical levels pre-legalization due in part to the fact that 80% of all wagers are done online which allows for ease and access," said Neva Pryor, executive director.

Other countries have limited or banned advertisements for gambling, including sports betting. New Jersey is one of eight U.S. states to allow sports betting since the U.S. Supreme Court lifted a prohibition on the practice outside Nevada.

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Contact reporter Dino Flammia at dino.flammia@townsquaremedia.com.

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