NJ Proposes Specialized Court for Gambling Charges
A new court is under consideration in New Jersey that would provide alternative options for people facing charges regarding gambling offenses.
In general, when someone commits a crime, they are sentenced in a federal or local court, depending on the offense. When it comes to gambling related crimes, officials in New Jersey would like to see a different approach taken, helping those who took part in a gambling related crime if problem gambling is at play. A specialized court has been proposed in the state, one that will provide people facing gambling related charges with an alternative to jail time.
In Nevada, there is a specialized court known as the Gambling Treatment Diversion Court (GTDC). This court was created by Judge Cheryl Moss and provides defendants in the state with counseling or additional support options when they face a gambling related criminal charge.
The executive director of the Nevada Council on Problem Gambling, Carol O’Hare, stated that the court has been an effective form of therapy to incarceration when it comes to people committing crimes due to gambling problems.
O’Hare pointed out that like other specialty courts, this one recognizes the need to provide treatment for a mental health condition or addiction. The individual is held accountable for the crime they commented but also provided with help to care for the underlying cause connected to the criminal activity.
In prison, individuals do not receive help with gambling addiction. There is no program that provides counseling, and the individual is able to continue with the gambling activity with the other inmates. With only jail time, the individual will not receive the help they need and will only continue the cycle.
Pushing the GTDC in NJ
In New Jersey, a GTDC is a possibility based on bill 3976 that is currently under consideration along with bill 5604. The first bill is in the Senate with the second in the Assembly. Among supporters of the alternative court option is Assemblyman Ralph Caputo.
The proposed court is not an option that will reduce problem gambling and it is not a prevention program. However, it focuses on treatment and rehabilitation instead of just jail time. In New Jersey, the court would be patterned after the same court in Nevada, recognizing the addiction as an illness, with treatment needed to see real change.
The court provides support and treatment while the individual is also under the supervision of a judge with a goal in place to improve the person’s life and help them make amends. The gambling court would provide a better alternative to help previously law-abiding citizens who committed a crime based on gambling addiction.
Gambling Addiction and Criminal Behavior
For many years, criminal behavior has been connected to gambling addiction. Like Nevada, New Jersey has a large gambling area and provides ample opportunity for players to gamble. While most people are able to keep their gambling in check, some suffer from addiction tendencies and can easily take on a gambling problem.
It is not uncommon for an individual with a major gambling addition to steal from family and friends or even their employer. In most cases, the gambler is looking for more money to either gamble with or pay back debt they owe due to gambling. When the addiction takes over, an otherwise law abiding citizen will act in an unusual manner to try and obtain money for more gambling.
The cycle continues until the individual is caught. With a more unique approach to tackling the underlying gambling problem, an individual can seek the help they need to avoid criminal behavior in the future. It will be interesting to see if lawmakers will approve the new court legislation and if such crimes will be judged in a different way in the future.