Gaming industry leaders, law enforcement and state officials huddled at the State House yesterday to talk about the issue of gambling addiction in New Jersey.

Tom Grill, Getty Images
Tom Grill, Getty Images

It's a growing problem among teens and young adults, particularly college students.

"The estimate is 350,000 people are affected and it varies among age groups," says Donald Weinbaum, executive director of the Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey. "We do see that the rates are twice as high among young people. We see it among adolescents. We see it among young adults."

How do we fix the problem? That's not quite clear, but a five-year working group is being created to tackle the issue.

There's also a concern that things could get worse now that online gaming is legal in the Garden State.

"Certainly that will make it (gambling) more available, more acceptable," explains Weinbaum. "In the past the research has said that increased access increases incidents of addiction."

More young people are in need of treatment according to gambling therapist Stephen Garbarini. He expects that trend to continue once online betting gets under way. The state legalized Internet gambling this year and the first online bets are expected by year's end.

The ideas experts will be exploring include:

  • Asking colleges to create rules on gaming like they have on drugs and alcohol.
  • Promoting preventative measures at grade school and high school levels using social media.

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