There's a younger crowd hitting the tables and slots in Atlantic City, at least since their reopening in early July.

And as a local university plans to open hundreds of rooms to students along the main casino strip, advocates for responsible gambling warn that younger minds have a better chance of getting hooked on addictive behaviors.

"We have concern over any young person under the age of 25. The adult brain does not fully develop until the age of 25," said Neva Pryor, executive director of the Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey, otherwise known as 800-GAMBLER.

According to Steve Callender, president of the Casino Association of New Jersey, some Atlantic City gaming halls "are seeing a younger crowd" since their doors reopened July 2 as part of New Jersey's recovery from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

"While some of our regular guests have not returned just yet, we anticipate the average age of our guests to increase when our restaurants reopen, when guests can drink on the casino floor or when they become familiar with the safety measures our casinos have in place," Callender said in an email to New Jersey 101.5.

Callender said Atlantic City may be particularly appealing to a younger demographic right now due to unprecedented low summer hotel rates, and it's a drivable getaway to the Jersey Shore.

Pryor, of 800-GAMBLER, added that older players may be avoiding brick-and-mortar casinos in New Jersey because COVID-19 is said to present greater health risks when contracted by older individuals.

Come the fall 2020 semester, students of Galloway-based Stockton University will be able to live at Showboat Atlantic City Hotel, a former casino located between Hard Rock Hotel Casino and Ocean Casino Resort.

On July 24, the university announced an agreement for the use of up to 400 rooms at the hotel for the fall and spring.

"The closer you are to a casino, the more likely you are to have an issue. That's well known in the industry," Pryor said. "The younger a person engages in addictive behavior, the more likely they'll have a problem later on. And that goes on with not just gambling, but with chemical addictions as well."

Pryor said the Council is neither for nor against gambling; they just want people, young and old, to know there's help available should wagering become a problem.

"We feel that working with a therapist and going to Gamblers Anonymous meetings is a good script for success," she said.

Staff at Stockton say they are not aware of any problem gambling trends among students since their Atlantic City campus opened in 2018. When the campus opened, Stockton provided resources related to gaming issues, a university spokesperson said.

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