NJ state Senate approves no-shame change to casino self-ban

BY JOHN BRENNAN, STAFF WRITER
THE RECORD

A bill to make it easier for people struggling with gambling issues to voluntarily exclude themselves from casinos is headed to Governor Christie’s desk after the state Senate offered its unanimous approval on Thursday.

The bill, whose sponsors in the Assembly included Bergen County state Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle and Ralph Caputo, D-Essex, amends current law so that individuals can sign up to be excluded without having to declare themselves a “problem gambler.”

“Let’s give someone trying to fight the scourge of problem gambling every option we can to help them recover,” said Vainieri Huttle in a statement. “If allowing them to ban themselves from facilities without admitting a problem on a document can help, then let’s give it a try.”

Currently, people with a gambling problem can voluntarily exclude themselves, but they must make a formal declaration that they have a gambling addiction. The new law allows them to get put on the exclusion list without citing a reason.

Caputo said that admitting to being a problem gambler “is a step many New Jerseyans make not be ready to make,” adding that some may fear that a formal admission could later be used against them.

Individuals who seek voluntary exclusion status at casinos or state-sponsored online gambling sites can choose a term of one year, five years, or lifetime for the ban. Casinos must cease marketing to anyone on the list, and casino personnel who identify an excluded player can ask them to leave the casino or inform them they would not be permitted to collect any winnings.
The bill was passed by the Assembly in March.

In other casino news Thursday, the 11 Atlantic City casino properties last month collectively were down 8.2 percent in revenues compared to May 2013, according to the state Division of Gaming Enforcement. That continues a stream of nearly uninterrupted decline for the city’s casino industry since 2006, with total revenues — and state taxes collected — declining by about 50 percent in that span.

Internet gaming revenues also slipped for a second consecutive month, from $11.9 million in March to $11.4 million in April and $10.9 million in May. The state collected $1.6 million in taxes on online gaming last month — a rate below what industry experts had forecast before the gambling debuted in late November and a tiny fraction of what Christie officials had projected a year ago.

The state is expected to collect a total of about $11 million in taxes for a seven-month period ending on June 30, compared to a peak Christie estimate of $180 million in that span — one of a series of shortfalls that have complicated budget talks in Trenton.

original article