A bill presented before the New Jersey legislature would create a court diversion program for criminals who commit non-violent crimes due to the increasing gambling addiction.
According to Assemblyman Ralph R. Caputo, a former casino executive of Atlantic City, the proposal will allow problem gamblers seeking help with addiction as an alternative option to jail time.
According to the bill supporters, the Diversion program will help address several problems in New Jersey; one is the worsening by introducing sports betting in 2018 and the upsurge in online casino gambling for those who are jobless.
Neva Pryor, the Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey, says that there is a sizeable percentage of problem gamblers in New Jersey, and it is three times higher than the national average. One of the reasons is the accessibility to these gambling games.
Since the pandemic lockdown, Neva says a 20 percent rise in calls to their helpline, and all calls are related to online sports betting.
One measure of sports online betting in New Jersey reached around $419 million for the four months and jumped 66.4 percent from 2020.
According to authorities, after getting addicted to gambling, gamblers will turn into crime to earn cash for wagering activity.
One of the recent cases shows how a suburban Philly accountant stole $1.2 million from his employer for over eight months, then spent the same amount on sports gambling along with making payments to porno models.
For this crime, Christopher was jailed for 16 months. Upon release, he will have to attend mental health treatment to bring down issues leading to this crime.
There will be a pilot program in three courtrooms- south, North Jersey and Central. According to the current updates, judges and health professionals will determine whether the offender qualifies for the program or requires extreme consequences.
The proposal mentioned that the participants would need to complete a three-year treatment program, and the program’s cost will be covered. However, the program doesn’t include defendants like those involved in committing an offense against children and facing other crimes.
A similar program was started in Nevada back in November 2018, which used several measures to track participants’ progress. These also include- drug testing and financial transparency.
According to Caputo, Nevada is the only state following this program, and it comes to New Jersey, it will be a significant change.