New bill seeks to create diversion court for gambling addiction-related crimes
A new bill introduced in the state Legislature could help those who commit crimes related to gambling addiction to get help rather than spend time in prison.
The COVID-19 pandemic may have slowed down a lot of things around the state. But gambling and betting during the pandemic did not stop, despite casinos being closed for a time.
“We noticed a shift in our helpline calls…More people started struggling with internet-related gambling activities and lottery products because those are the format of gambling that were available,” says Daniel Trolaro, the assistant executive director of the New Jersey Council on Compulsive Gambling.
Online gambling and sports betting make up one-third of the council’s hotline calls. And where there is addiction, there can also be criminal activity.
This is why state Assemblyman Ralph Caputo introduced a new bill that aims to create a gambling treatment diversion court. It would focus on treatment, rather than jail time.
“It sets up three courts in the state that would deal with the gambling addiction problem and we work with professionals and the court system to see who will qualify,” Caputo says.
The program would only be available to non-violent offenders. The council says that the impact this bill could have for those struggling with gambling addiction is immense.
"When we put someone in prison, there are some basic services that are available to those who are incarcerated. But at the end of the day if they are exposed to gambling while spending their time in prison, when they come out of prison and return back to society, they could've just furthered the existing problem that they already have or developed a new addiction to gambling,” Trolaro says.
The bill will not head to a state committee.