As N.J. readies for online gaming, protections sought for compulsive gamblers

Groups concerned about gaming addiction want New Jersey rules on online gambling to include protections for compulsive gamblers.

Now that Gov. Chris Christie has signed online gambling into law, the state’s Division of Gaming Enforcement is writing specific regulations on how the law will be enacted and enforced.

Jeff Beck at the Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey says online gaming carries special risks.

“It’s 24/7; the fact that you can roll out of bed and play; the fact that you’re alone,” he said, reciting some of those risks. “The fact that you can play under the influence of drugs and alcohol and no one is going to notice.”

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Beck says the controls he’d like to see exist offline.

“You’re in a casino and a pit boss may walk over and say it looks like you’re losing control a little bit, maybe you need to stop, maybe you want to take a 10-minute time out,” he said.

He’d like to see something like a virtual pit boss — tools that let gamblers set time or loss limits, or ban themselves from online gambling sites altogether.

Sen. Ray Lesniak, who sponsored the online gaming bill, says that knowing expanded gaming always comes with an increase in compulsive gambling, he included money in the bill for groups such as the Council on Compulsive Gambling.

“We crossed that bridge long time ago,” said Lesniak, D-Union. “We have convenience stores selling lottery tickets right across from low-income housing projects. It unfortunately goes along with the territory. What we have to do, though, is provide the means possible for people who acknowledge the problem to come forward to get help.”

Lesniak also supports online protections to help limit problem gambling. He says, for now, the regulatory ball’s not in his court.

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