With commercials for betting popping up everywhere you look these days, New Jersey is now facing an epidemic of sports and casino gambling, with dire results for some. That’s the warning from the executive director of the Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey.

Appearing before the New Jersey Assembly Tourism, Gaming and the Arts Committee on Monday, Felicia Grondin told panel members that advertising for lottery games, brick and mortar casinos, internet gambling and sports betting has exploded in the Garden State, with $725 million spent last year alone on TV ads.

She said these messages increase the likelihood “of state residents potentially developing a gambling problem, and for those who have recognized they have a gambling problem incessant advertising can be an accelerator for individuals to relapse and break their gambling sobriety.”

She pointed out as gambling in Jersey has increased, the 1-800-GAMBLER helpline has received more calls, which translates into more people needing help.

She said there are so many ads on the airwaves encouraging people to gamble, it has been called predatory.

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“Advertising of this nature can be equated to a liquor store offering free alcohol, or a drug dealer offering a free bag of heroin to individuals with a substance abuse problem," she said.

Grondin noted gambling is a hidden addiction because you can’t see it or smell it, and many compulsive gamblers are too embarrassed to seek help until they suffer financial disaster.

“Disordered gambling ruins families, careers and credit scores. It ruins lives of the gambler and their loved ones,” she said.

She told members of the panel that out-of-control gambling also takes lives.

“There is nearly a 20% suicide rate of those exposed to this disorder, which is the highest suicide rate of any addiction,” she said.

What should be done?

Grondin said to combat this growing social epidemic a number of steps can be taken, including:

• Develop public service announcements to inform the public about gambling risks and available services

• Set gambling advertising limits and parameters similar to alcohol commercials

• Require warning labels on gambling sites and a brick and mortar casinos about the potentially addictive nature of gambling

• Continue to provide education and awareness

She also urged the committee to increase funding for the council.

Assemblyman Ralph Caputo, D-Essex, the chairman of the committee, called the amount of sports betting ads “obscene” and indicted points raised by Grondin need to be looked at and considered.

David Matthau is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at david.matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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