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Mazzeo, Armato bill allowing drug court grads to work in casinos clears Assembly

Mazzeo, Armato bill allowing drug court grads to work in casinos clears Assembly

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People convicted of low-level drug offenses who successfully complete the state’s Recovery Court program are one step closer to being able to hold upper-level positions in Atlantic City casinos.

The state Assembly passed legislation Monday that would allow the Casino Control Commission to issue casino key employee licenses and the Division of Gaming Enforcement to issue casino employee registration to anyone who has been discharged from drug court.

The bill, A5817, was introduced Nov. 7 and cleared both the Law and Public Safety and Appropriations committees before being passed by the full Assembly 64-8-1.

It is being reviewed by the Senate State Government, Wagering, Tourism & Historic Preservation Committee.

Under current law, people who have been convicted of drug offenses are not eligible to apply for casino employee licenses.

“Substance abuse can lead to a vicious circle,” said Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo, D-Atlantic, one of the bill’s primary sponsors. “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.”

Casino key employee jobs include managers of hotel operations, human resources, entertainment or food and beverages, directors of security, surveillance or marketing, and gaming floor supervisors.

“The casino industry remains focused on advancing Atlantic City’s revitalization, in partnership with the broader community,” said Steve Callender, president of the Casino Association of New Jersey and senior vice president of operations for the East Region of Tropicana Atlantic City’s parent company, Eldorado Resorts. “We believe this legislation will strengthen our partnership with the community and allow our industry to benefit from an expanded universe of potential new employees..”

State Sen. Chris Brown, R-Atlantic, and former Sen., current U.S. Rep. Jeff Van Drew, D-2nd, sponsored similar legislation in 2018 that unanimously passed in the upper chamber before stalling in an Assembly committee.

New Jersey drug courts, referred to as recovery courts in the Atlantic and Cape May county vicinage, are an alternative to incarceration that allow people convicted of specific drug-related crimes to complete substance use rehabilitation.

Under the new legislation, people convicted of possession, distribution or manufacturing of minor amounts of a controlled dangerous substance who complete drug court will no longer be disqualified from obtaining a casino key employee license.

“Sustained employment can help a person in recovery rebuild their lives,” said Assemblyman John Armato, D-Atlantic, who also sponsored the bill. “Atlantic City’s revitalization continues to bring more jobs and businesses to the area, including two new casinos. People who have overcome their addiction deserve a chance to find gainful employment, and there are so many options right here in Atlantic County.”

Joe Jingoli, CEO of Joseph Jingoli and Son Inc. and one of the principals of Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City, has been a vocal advocate for the need to provide people in recovery with stable employment. In his experience, Jingoli said, people in recovery “make really good employees.”

“At a time when the scourge of addiction has touched all of us, what better way to combat it than true opportunity and jobs?” Jingoli said.

Contact: 609-272-7222

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