Race tracks use comics to lure kids to betting

A New Jersey legislator will introduce a bill forbidding the distribution of free cartoon, coloring, and puzzle books to children on "kiddie days" at New Jersey race tracks.

Assemblyman Chuck hardwick (R) of Union says the books not only "whet children's appetite for racing -- but for gambling."

The Rev. Dudley Sarfaty of the New Jersey Council of Churches has asseted: "It's clearly a violation of the law to educate people in something they are forbidden by law to do."

But current practice permits the distribution of the "comics" at the Meadowlands, a sports complex that is owned and operated by the State of New Jersey and contains a race track and football stadium.

Typically, the racing comics show children how to read racing forms. They are distributed in many states.

While the New Jersey racing commission's administrative code permits children as young as 12 to attend nighttime racing when acompanied by parents, there is no age limit at all for attending daytime racing. Surveys show that minors not only are attending races in ever greater numbers, but more and more are betting illegally.

In New Jersey, no one under the age of 18 is legally permitted to bet. Research done by Assemblyman Hardwick and his colleagues shows that "a disturbing number of minors not only attend the track, but illegally place bets."

"The earlier a gambling addiction starts, the tougher it is to break," warns Julian Tabor, a director of one of four treatment centers for compulsive gamblers in the United States. His is at the Veteran's Administration Hospital at Brecksville, Ohio.

Assemblyman Hardwick says he couldn't agree more, and he hopes his legislation will set a precedent for other states.

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