New Jersey’s governor signed into law this week a measure that lets drug court graduates get a required license for higher-level jobs in Atlantic City gaming operations.
Earlier, the conviction on less serious drug offenses would have prevented the drug court attendees from getting the casino positions. It will be limited to those who successfully complete the Recovery Court program.
Once sober, they can qualify for casino key employee licenses, The Press of Atlantic City reported. That paves the way to vying for a casino job.
Upon signing the law, Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat, said, “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 state Sen. Chris Brown, R-Atlantic, and Assemblymen Vince Mazzeo and John Armato, both D-Atlantic.
“Substance abuse can lead to a vicious circle,” Mazzeo said in a recent press release on the issue. “With a drug conviction on their record, it can be difficult for a person to find gainful employment to try to better their lives.”
“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,” the Assemblyman added.
Joe Jingoli, a partner in Hard Rock Atlantic City, supported similar drug court legislation in 2018. That bill failed to get enacted.
Recovery courts permit those convicted of low-level, non-violent drug-related crimes to enter long-term drug treatment and agree to court supervision rather than a jail sentence. It stands to especially benefit those suffering from opioid abuse.
Atlantic City has been hit especially hard with the opioid epidemic. Roughly 800 Atlantic and Cape May county citizens have found their way to Recovery Court.
Caution Needed Before Placing Drug Court Grads in Casinos
But not everyone fully supports the new law.
“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,” said Lia Nower, director of the Rutgers University School of Social Work’s Center for Gambling Studies, to Casino.org in November.
“From a recovery perspective, we all know that individuals in recovery should avoid people, places, and things that could serve as relapse triggers,” she concluded. Casinos are known for the presence of alcohol.
The new law also comes as it appears Atlantic City gaming venues are finding it hard to fill many vacant positions. Casinos in nearby states hired away experienced Atlantic City casino workers as of two years ago, the Press reported.
Total Number of Casino Workers Edges Down
The number of employees in the city’s nine casinos dropped last December compared to December of 2018. Atlantic City casinos employed 26,761 people in December, a 4.2 percent drop from December 2018, according the state Division of Gaming Enforcement.
The 2018 opening of Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City and Ocean Casino Resort also impacted the number of casino workers in Atlantic City. the Press reported.