New Jersey residents and visitors have unprecedented access to fair, legal, and regulated gambling options.
From casinos to poker games to sportsbooks, whether land-based or online, gambling enthusiasts can place wagers safely under the protection of law.
Players must match this permissive regulatory environment with a robust understanding of responsible gambling practices. They should also be aware of the resources available to combat “problem gambling.”
Gambling and games of chance can enrich a person’s life when they see them for what they are—a source of entertainment.
In some ways, it’s no different than a night out at a nightclub, movie theater, or sports pub.
You expect to go home with less money than you arrived with because you spent on food, drinks, and entertainment … but you had a fun night out with friends and new acquaintances, passing the time with an exciting activity before it’s time to call it a night.
Problem gambling or gambling disorder occurs when a game of chance becomes a person’s reason for being.
People chase winnings or try to make up losses, with an unrealistic expectation of their chances of winning and a deluded notion of gambling as a “profitable” enterprise.
Gambling is a profitable enterprise … usually for the casinos. Casino games have a built-in, predictable “house edge.” A few people win big. But over the total of all spins, hands, or plays, the house nets a predictable profit … meaning players absorb predictable losses.
If the desire to be one of these “big winners” takes over a player’s life, he or she may become a problem gambler.
What Makes Someone a Responsible Gambler?
“Responsible gambling” is an attitude. A responsible gambler:
- Bets for the fun and the thrill of it, not to “make a profit.”
- Accepts wins as an exciting bonus.
- Sets a time limit for his/her gambling session and sticks to it.
- Accepts losses as the more likely outcome.
- Never bets more money than (s)he can accept losing.
- “Quits while (s)he is ahead” rather than chasing wins or “doubling down.”
- Sets a budget for the gambling session and quits graciously when losses exhaust that budget, rather than chasing those losses to try and win them back.
- Does not gamble when sad, angry, or otherwise afflicted by negative emotions.
- Maintains balance in his/her gambling hobby with other hobbies, work, and relationships, not allowing it to take over his/her life.
Good casinos value responsible gamblers and promote this attitude by striving to create a safe, ethical, and fun environment.
Major New Jersey casinos:
- Provide resources on the difference between responsible gambling and problem gambling.
- Train employees to recognize problem gambling and to intervene when they see it.
- Direct problem gamblers to recovery resources.
- Target marketing toward responsible gamblers, not problem gamblers.
- Enforce restrictions against underage gambling.
What Makes Someone a Problem Gambler?
Problem gambling arises when a player or casino customer is unable or unwilling to adhere to responsible gambling behaviors or practices.
This can manifest in different ways and reflect different behaviors. In general, however, a problem gambler’s gaming practices become less “fun” and more risky.
High-risk gambling behavior can affect a problem gambler’s health, job, or family and relationships including marriage. Problem gambling behaviors can most directly affect the player’s savings and financial wellbeing.
Problem gambling behaviors are sometimes obvious. At other times they can be hard to spot. It is likely that a person suffers from a gambling problem when he or she:
- Requests to borrow money from family and friends.
- Requests to borrow money from casino employees or patrons.
- Requests for extension of credit.
- Remains on the casino floor when their budget is exhausted.
- Sells personal possessions to finance gambling.
- Hides gambling losses from friends or family.
- Looks at gambling as an escape from stress, depression, anxiety, or other negative emotions and mood disorders.
- Bets increasingly larger and larger amounts.
- Makes bets to win back losses or double down on a “winning streak.”
- Neglects commitments to work, family, or friends.
- Neglects personal hygiene and/or health.
- Shows remorse or shame after gambling.
Players who suspect they might be at risk of a gambling disorder should seek help and treatment from state or national problem gambling resources.
Does Online Gambling Lead to Gambling Problems?
Not necessarily, but the 24/7 nature of online gambling can certainly contribute to the impact or severity of a gambling disorder, as noted in a 2017 study by Rutgers University.
Responsible providers of online gambling services have risen to the challenge, attempting to limit problem gambling behaviors online as well as on the casino floor.
For example, DraftKings Online Sportsbook allows players to set limits on their own betting. Bettors can choose daily, weekly, or monthly limits to prevent rash betting decisions and control their gambling impulses.
As with in-person casino and racetrack wagering, NJ online gambling is entertainment, a pastime that players should not become obsessed with.
Players who suspect their online gambling habits have become a disorder should cancel their account, self-restrict themselves, or seek help from state and national gambling disorder resources.
Responsible NJ online gaming sites should verify a user’s identity and age based on a personal background check. They must also verify the player’s location by GPS. Online bets can only be placed by persons over the age of 21 who are physically located in the state of New Jersey.
Resources for Problem Gamblers in New Jersey
People who suspect they may be problem gamblers should not feel ashamed to seek help, nor should they hesitate. Problem gambling can have serious long-term financial and interpersonal consequences.
New Jersey offers numerous resources to help gamers learn responsible gambling practices and to rehabilitate problem gambling.
These resources include:
CCGNJ is a nonprofit offering statewide services to problem gamblers.
The centerpiece of their outreach program is 1-800-GAMBLER, a confidential hotline gamblers can call 24/7 for nonjudgmental counseling and support with problem gambling practices.
1-800-GAMBLER also offers text support, as well as chat support and educational resources at 800gambler.org.
CCGNJ may also refer problem gamblers to state-funded problem gambling treatment programs, including both inpatient and outpatient programs, to treat gambling addiction.
They also refer out to a network of therapists trained to help NJ gamers with problem gambling.
Part of the DGE’s oversight of the casinos is a program that gamers can use to “cut themselves off” if they suspect they are at risk of problem gambling.
Participants can contact the DGE and voluntarily “ban” themselves from Atlantic City casinos, New Jersey racetracks, and/or NJ online gambling sites.
DGE only offers a self-exclusion program. Friends or family members cannot petition the DGE to cut somebody else off from gambling. Adult gamers still have the right to play as they please.
If a person chooses to self-exclude themselves from New Jersey gambling, he or she may file a self-exclusion with the DGE for one of three time periods:
- 1 year
- 5 years
The self-exclusion can apply to a limitation on the player’s gambling credit or a ban from gambling altogether.
Players can file for an exclusion either in-person at the DGE or New Jersey Racing Commission; or online at the DGE’s website.
Registrants need to bring a photo ID and must expect to be photographed.
The registrant’s information and photograph will be confidentially shared with licensed NJ land-based and online casinos and/or racetracks. Any online accounts will be suspended.
Self-excluded persons will be removed from casino marketing lists. All offers and promos will be revoked or forfeited.
If a self-excluded person changes their mind on the agreement and attempts to gamble in New Jersey, the casino may catch him or her based on information provided by the DGE. Any chips and/or winnings may be confiscated and the player ejected.
If a self-exclusion has a set time limit, the player can resume gambling once that time limit has elapsed.
National Resources for Problem Gamblers
In addition to statewide resources, the US government offers several resources to help people with gambling disorders and combat problem gambling.
This nonprofit organization offers funding for studies on gambling disorders, especially amongst young people.
The focus is on treatment, not punishment. Visitors to the website can discover white papers, articles, and videos to become educated on problem gambling, its causes, and available treatments.
This nonprofit offers a self-screening test to help players discover if they suffer from a gambling disorder.
The website includes chat support for problem gamblers. They also offer a 24/7 helpline at 1-800-522-4700.
Problem gamblers in NJ can also find links to New Jersey-specific gambling disorder resources via the National Council website.
This national nonprofit offers another hotline for problem gamblers to call and get counseling and support. They operate a New Jersey office, which can be reached at 1-855-222-5542.
Gamblers Anonymous also operates confidential support groups. Nearby meetings can be located using their website’s meeting-search tool with included map support.
The online forum Gamtalk allows problem gamblers to a confidential forum to share their stories.
A visitor could discover expressions of support and commiseration, crowdsource coping strategies, and read success stories for recovery ideas and inspiration.