By Cleve Bryan
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (CBS/AP) — New Jersey is extending its self-exclusion list to allow people to ban themselves from online betting.
The action comes with Internet gambling set to begin in just over two weeks, and some advocates worry about a spike in compulsive gambling.
“Somebody gets up in the middle of the night and instead of having to drive two hours to the casino – they can take six steps and click on the computer and gamble,” says Jeffrey Beck assistant director for clinical services with the Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey.
Beck’s other main concerns are people gambling intoxicated at home and children accessing online gambling accounts that belong to adults.
“Young people are very tech savvy, they’re used to doing things on the computer, on their hand-held devices and they’re going to have the ability to do that,” says Beck.
New Jersey, like many other states, allows people who feel they have a gambling problem to place their names on a list of those who are not allowed to enter any of Atlantic City’s 12 casinos.
The state Gaming Enforcement Division is automatically extending the list to cover Internet gambling, as well. People already on the exclusion list for casinos do not have to do anything to be included in the online self-exclusion list.
But people can also sign up for an online-only ban.
“Expanding the division’s self-exclusion program to include Internet gaming and making the application process available to the public prior to Internet gaming’s go-live date of November 26, 2013, represents a commitment I made following the signing of the Internet gaming bill,” said David Rebuck, the gaming enforcement division’s director. “The division is committed to promoting responsible gaming not only in Atlantic City’s casinos, but also on the Internet.”
People can ban themselves for one-year or five-year terms. During that time, they are not permitted to enter casinos, or, in the case of online betting, engage in Internet gambling. If they sneak into a casino and win, their winnings are subject to forfeiture.
People can sign up in person at various offices located across the state, including the division’s offices in Atlantic City or Trenton, and the offices of the New Jersey Racing Commission in Trenton, East Rutherford, Oceanport and Freehold. They can also sign up online.
Arnie Wexler, former head of New Jersey’s Council on Compulsive Gambling, is among those concerned about a potential spike in problems gamblers once it becomes easier to access using the Internet instead of requiring a trip to Atlantic City.
“Compulsive gambling is an impulsive addiction, and the addicted gambler can’t resist the urge to gamble and chase losses or wins,” he said.
Donald Weinbaum, the council’s current executive director, said the extension of the self-exclusion list to Internet gambling is necessary to help those with gambling problems.
“For persons experiencing problems as a result of their gambling, self-exclusion can be a very useful tool,” he said.
With the potential for new gambling problems caused by online gambling comes some positives.
Each licensed casino that operates online will have to pay $250,000 a year to finance programs that treat gambling addictions and provide awareness.
Beck says the new money will allow many more opportunities for the CCGNJ which currently has a $220,000 budget for treatment.
He says there is also the opportunity for studying gambling habits online rather than relying on self-reporting.
Anyone signing up for the self-exclusion program can get a free consultation with a compulsive gambling counselor by calling 1-800-GAMBLER, or using the www.800gambler.org web site.
(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)