Recently the Governor of New Jersey signed into law a measure that allows people convicted of drug charges to work in Atlantic City casinos.
Before the law change, even those with minor drug-related offenses were forbidden from working in the New Jersey gambling industry. Under the new system, such people can qualify for a casino employee license by completing the Recovery Court rehabilitation program.
When New Jersey governor Phil Murphy signed the law, he stated, “If our families are to win their battles against substance abuse, and so we don’t lose an entire generation of young people to addiction, we have to assure them that while recovery won’t be easy, it will be worth it by providing real hope for their future, with a second chance to live productive lives by opening doors to get jobs in our casino industry.”
The bill was co-sponsored by New Jersey senator Chris Brown and assemblymen Vince Mazzeo and John Armato.
In a recent press release, Armato stated, “Substance abuse can lead to a vicious circle. With a drug conviction on their record, it can be difficult for a person to find gainful employment to try to better their lives.”
He added, “To break this cycle, we’ll need to provide more viable opportunities for those recovering from substance abuse to become productive members of their communities.”
Joe Jingol, one of the partners of Hard Rock Atlantic City, voiced support of similar legislation back in 2018, but that bill went nowhere.
The Recovery Courts allow people that are convicted of non-violent and lower-level drug crimes to take the road of drug treatment and court supervision rather than going to jail. This has proved to be a popular option for people recovering from opioid addiction, with nearly 800 residents of Atlantic City and Cape May attending Recovery Court.
Lia Nower, the Rutgers University School of Social Work’s Center for Gambling Studies, said in November last year, “While I applaud the desire to reduce the stigma associated with drug offenses, I think working in a casino would be a high-risk environment for anyone in recovery, whether or not they have a criminal history, and I wouldn’t recommend it. From a recovery perspective, we all know that individuals in recovery should avoid people, places, and things that could serve as relapse triggers.”
It is not surprising the new measure was signed into law, as the casinos in Atlantic City are having a hard time filling various positions. The Press of Atlantic City has reported that many land-based casinos from neighboring states have been pilfering the Atlantic City casinos of their employees for the last two years.
In December of 2019, there were 26,761 people employed at Atlantic City casinos. This is a drop of 4.2% from December of 2018. The opening of the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino and Ocean Casino Resort in 2018 also had a major impact on the distribution of the workforce at New Jersey casinos.