Under current New Jersey law, the penalty for a person under the age of 21 who enters or gambles at a casino includes an automatic six-month driver license suspension or postponement.

Before time is up on the current legislative session, state lawmakers are attempting to send a bill to the governor that would get rid of this mandatory loss of driver privileges but still keep it as an option for judges.

"I am a strong proponent of keeping our roads safe, but this suspension ... has nothing to do with keeping our roads safe," said state Sen. Shirley Turner, D- Mercer, before voting in favor of the bill during a committee hearing in December.

The proposed law was approved unanimously by the full Assembly in early 2019. The full Senate is scheduled to hold its last voting sessions on Jan. 9 and Jan. 13, before newly-elected members are sworn into the state Legislature and any bills in limbo are killed.

The bipartisan measure states that courts may impose a license postponement or suspension based on the specific circumstances of each case. The court, though, would be required to consider whether the loss of driving privileges would effect one's ability to pursue education or employment.

"Just giving someone a slap on the wrist — that won't change anyone," said Neva Pryor, executive director of the Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey. "So what we're trying to do is get something added to it."

Pryor said she'd like to see "mandatory counseling" added to the penalty for underage gambling in the Garden State.

"Even if it's one or two sessions to find out if the person needs additional help," Pryor said. "You're underage gambling — now what we can we do to help you so that it doesn't turn into a problem?"

The penalty for underage gambling in New Jersey also includes a fun of between $500 and $1,000.

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

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