The Nevada Problem Gambling Diversion Court Helps Non-Violent Convicted Addicts
A former public defender and municipal judge, Dayvid Figler has been practicing law for 28 years. He passed his bar when he was just 23, and today, he’s discussing how he took an innovative approach to restitution in Nevada.
Though the state’s NRS 458A law was first passed in 2009, Figler was the first to implement it in 2015 when he defended a client who would have otherwise been incarcerated for 4-10 years on charges of theft and embezzlement. Diagnosed with an undeniable problem gambling disorder by a mental health professional, Figler’s client had racked up over $500,000 in debt through her inordinate use of video poker machines.
Both the initial presiding judge and the state’s Supreme Court took the law seriously, and Figler’s resulting win led to the creation of a “brick and mortar” court with a full staff and judge. This provided a pathway for convicted addicts to recover in a program geared towards treating their specific disorder.
Figler explains that while someone warehoused in prison is unable to pay back their debts in any meaningful way while incarcerated, those in the program are allowed to work while receiving court-supervised treatment. This is a win-win for the participants and the people to whom they owe money: convicted individuals can repay their debts while working to recover from their addictions. Thanks to her involvement in the program, Figler’s first client has already paid back tens of thousands of dollars.
The diversion court is both practical and compassionate, working actively to destigmatize problem gambling disorder. Individuals in the program “are being recognized as people who have actual verifiable mental health disorders that need treatment, that need support systems, and who can turn [their lives] around,” says Figler. Mental health professionals, advocates for criminal justice reform, and gaming industry executives all embrace the court as a tenet of social responsibility.
Though the state is able to offset some of the court’s expenses with revenue tied to taxes from the gaming industry, many otherwise-eligible people cannot afford to get an official diagnosis of their disorder from a mental health provider. Industry operators are encouraged to show their support by giving grants to the court or underwriting programming. By funding the diversion court, they can express their support for treatment and help fellow Nevadans get the help they need.
Thanks to Judge Cheryl Moss, the Nevada Council on Problem Gambling, the partners working within the program, and Dayvid Figler, the days of stigma are nearly over for people suffering from problem gambling disorder.
“The hope is that the stigmatization of those who find themselves in this position certainly are treated a little bit more kindly and fairly,” says Figler, “not just by the court system but really by the rest of our communities.”
Listen to Dayvid’s interview by clicking here.
Responsible Gaming Education Week
Responsible Gaming Education Week (RGEW) was created by the AGA in 1998 to increase awareness of problem gambling among gaming industry employees and customers and to promote responsible gaming nationwide.
The AGA and the entire gaming industry realize that education is essential to promoting responsible play and increasing awareness of gambling disorders, and RGEW provides gaming companies with an opportunity to expand on work they do every day educating employees and patrons about the issue.