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Diversion court takes a chance on problem gamblers

Tingey Law Firm/Unsplash

Problem gamblers often resort to crime to feed their addiction. Now a Clark County diversion court makes treatment instead of incarceration available for nonviolent offenders.

What’s officially called the Gambling Treatment Diversion Court began to  hear cases in 2018 and recently saw its first three graduates, with two more expected this month. Participants saw their criminal charges dropped after a lengthy court-supervised comprehensive outpatient treatment program that can include a variety of counseling services.

Clark County District Court Chief Judge Linda Bell, who has made diversion courts a priority, said treatment programs are tailored to the participant.

"Perhaps they'll need substance abuse treatment as well as gambling treatment," she said. "We expect people to attend support-group meetings of some sort, as well, so that we're dealing with that addiction piece."

Bell also said the gambling diversion court, and other diversion courts, save taxpayers money by reducing the need for expensive prison space and by requiring participants to bear the costs of the program.

"Another thing that is important to remember is, in this court, the people are required to pay restitution," she said. "And so the person who is the victim of a crime is getting compensated, at least for part of the money that they've lost."

The court accepts cases after applications from defendants or referrals from other judges.

Linda Bell, chief judge, Clark County District Court

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Joe Schoenmann joined Nevada Public Radio in 2014. He works with a talented team of producers at State of Nevada who explore the casino industry, sports, politics, public health and everything in between.