Clark County – the jurisdictional seat of famed gambling destination Las Vegas, Nevada – has launched a special diversion court aimed at curbing the damaging impacts of gambling addition in the region. The specialty court will be handling cases involving defendants who are addicted to gambling. The reasoning behind this approach is two-fold: first, crime related to gambling addiction have serious social consequences; and second, there is a real lack of facilities dedicated to the treatment and rehabilitation of criminal defendants affected by gambling addiction.
In a problem gambling court, people who have been arrested for any crime related to an addiction to gambling can be diverted to a treatment facility or any other appropriate form of treatment depending on their individual facts and circumstances. Where the defendant ultimately ends up may depend on the severity of the crime they committed and whether the person is able to function in everyday life. If the offender follows the treatment regimen and all of the rules outlined by the court, then they may motion to have their case dismissed.
Specialty courts like Clark County’s Problem Gambling Court have proven successful in diverting people in need of help to facilities that are equipped to handle addiction. Many advocates consider programs such as these to be a reasonable alternative to the short-term fix of simply tossing affected people into a jail cell. Rather, the Problem Gambling Court seeks to address gambling addiction and crime at the root of the problem.
Legal gambling has a long history in America, and nearly 125 million U.S citizens engage in some form of wagering or gambling activities. The majority of people engaging in betting and wagering will never experience a life altering behavior. However approximately 1.5% percent, around 3 million people, will manifest a gambling addiction or disorder. This disorder may lead to erratic and self-destructive behavior, including crime.
Clark County’s decision to invest in a diversion program for gambling addicts is a reaction to increasing crime related to this issue in the Las Vegas area. The idea of implementing a problem court specific to gambling addiction was first initiated by Family Court Judge Cheryl Moss, as a possible solution to growing crime rates related to gambling addiction.
Judge Moss is looking to establish a community response to a problem that is increasingly common in today’s society. She believes that diversion programs for gambling addicts are beneficial because they address the root of the problem. After all, as Judge Moss delicately points out, when individuals suffering from an addiction end up in jail they are not receiving the help they need to beat their addiction. In fact, jail time is highly associated with instances of relapse, which are very common once an individual suffering from a gambling addiction is released.
Judge Moss illustrates the biggest problem with treatment in gambling addiction, is that the public perception of gamblers and addiction needs to be altered in a way that reflects addiction as being nothing more than what it is, a form of mental disorder. The first case on the Problem Gambling court calendar is set for November 30th. This first case will likely set the tone for how gamblers addiction will be handled in this specialty court. From then, the court will continue to hear cases specifically involving so-called “Problem Gamblers.”
Without a specialty gambling court, people who become addicted to gambling would have to face the consequences of whatever desperate act they made during their addition, even though they could very well be rehabilitated back into society. This emphasizes how important it is to change old practices that encourage stigmatization and bias surrounding addiction by redirecting addicts in the criminal justice system to facilities that can help them kick the habit.