A new court has been launched in the US state of Nevada, designed specifically to direct gambling addicts into treatment.
The Clark County court was set up following an amendment to the Nevada Revised Statutes Chapter 458A, which opened the possibility of allowing defendants in criminal cases to enter a gambling treatment program, rather than go to jail, providing a judge thinks they are suitable.
Judge Cheryl Moss, who had played a major role in persuading lawmakers to create the new judicial pathway, has been appointed to lead the court, which has been designed to work in the same way as a number of other specialist courts in the county, such as those dealing with veterans, mental health, drugs, felony DUI and family drug treatment.
But the new court has been a long time coming. The original bill providing for its establishment was signed by Gov. Jim Gibbons in October 2009, and it has taken over nine years for the court to be activated, with the first three cases heard in late November.
Defendants may be referred to the Gambling Treatment Diversion program if they plead guilty to certain crimes, such as theft, and if the evidence suggests that the crime was committed to fund or assist that individual’s gambling habit. Defendants who plead guilty to violent crimes, crimes committed against a child or sexual offenses will not be eligible.
Eligible defendants must be seen by a qualified counsellor to confirm that they have a gambling problem and will then be referred to a therapy program. As part of the program, they must also commit to appearing in court every week and to pay a $1500 administration fee.
Speaking about the new program, Judge Moss said that she was hopeful that it would have a big effect on tackling gambling related crime:
“I’m excited about this one being the first in the state, and I hope to get one set up in Reno. But I also look forward to the first one to get through the program successfully. That’ll be a great day.”
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