Change to casino self-ban advances in New Jersey

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) - Gamblers could ban themselves from casinos or gambling websites without having to admit they have a problem under a bill that the New Jersey Assembly approved Thursday.

The state's voluntary self-exclusion lists permit people to sign up and request that they not be admitted to casinos or allowed to gamble online. But the law currently requires them to attest that they have a gambling problem.

The bill, passed by a 77-0 vote, would let people sign up for the lists without having to admit they are compulsive gamblers.

"This is simply another option for those who want to exclude themselves from New Jersey's gaming facilities, but don't want to concede a problem on an official document they fear may come back to haunt them down the road," said Assemblyman Troy Singleton, a Burlington County Democrat. "Gambling addiction is a disease, and if this can help some people overcome their problem, it's a step in the right direction."

The change would take away some of the stigma of signing up for the list, said Donald Weinbaum, head of the state's Council on Compulsive Gambling. He had asked an Assembly committee to pass the bill last month, saying the state should not place any roadblocks in the path of people who are otherwise willing to get help for themselves.

The state lets people choose whether the bans are for one year, five years or life. There are 1,575 names on the two lists, one for casino gambling and the other for Internet gambling. Names on the list are not made public.

People wishing to add their names to the list must apply in person at the state Division of Gaming Enforcement offices in Atlantic City or Trenton, or at the offices of the New Jersey Racing Commission in Trenton or at the state's horse racing tracks.

The bill now goes to the state Senate, where a vote has yet to be scheduled.

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