New Jersey lets people bar themselves from gambling at Atlantic City's casinos. By putting their names on an exclusion list, people can designate whether they want the ban to be for one year, five years or for life.

But to do so, people must attest that they have a gambling problem.

Now the state Legislature is considering a measure that would change that. A bill (A2444) passed by the Assembly Tourism and Gaming Committee recently would allow people to join an exclusion list without admitting they are compulsive gamblers.

The proposal makes sense - and makes us wonder why declaring that you have a gambling problem was made a requirement of the exclusion request to begin with. Why embarrass people who are doing the right thing by trying to deal with a gambling addiction?

New Jersey keeps two exclusion lists, one for casino gambling and one for Internet gambling. Currently 1,575 people have put their names on the lists, asking that they not be admitted to casinos or not be allowed to gamble online.

But why should anyone have to sign a paper saying he or she is a compulsive gambler in order to be put on the lists? As simple a step as that may seem, such an admission may make people uncomfortable and could be a barrier that keeps someone who needs help from getting it.

State officials say names on the lists are not made public, but we live in an age where expectations of privacy are being subverted on a regular basis. It's logical that concerns about public disclosure may be keeping some people from requesting that they be excluded from casinos.

Even without the fear of public disclosure, it can be hard to sign a document saying you are a compulsive gambler.

As Assemblyman Ralph Caputo, D-Essex, chairman of the Tourism and Gaming committee, said, "Admitting on a document that you are a problem gambler is a step many New Jerseyans may not be ready to make, even if they are confronting their problem. Many may feel that document is a stigma that can be used against them, but with this option, they are getting some help without having to make that potentially embarrassing admission."

Exactly. It's a simple change, but one that might be enough to encourage more people who could benefit from the exclusion lists to use them - without fear of being stigmatized.


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