While many minors are aware, or should be aware, that underage gambling is against the law, foreign-born minors may be exposed to additional collateral immigration consequences that are not as well known. While the offense is not found in or classified as a Title 2C criminal offense, it is nevertheless considered a disorderly persons offense. New Jersey Statute 5:12-119 provides in part:
a. No person under the age at which a person is authorized to purchase and consume alcoholic beverages shall enter, or wager in, a licensed casino or simulcasting facility; provided, however, that such a person may enter a casino or simulcasting facility by way of passage to another room, and provided further, however, that any such person who is licensed or registered under the provisions of the “Casino Control Act,” P.L. 1977, c. 110 (C. 5:12-1 et seq.), may enter a casino or simulcasting facility in the regular course of the person’s permitted activities.
Any person who violates this subsection shall be guilty of a disorderly persons offense and shall be fined not less than $500 and not more than $1000. In addition, the court shall suspend or postpone the person’s license to operate a motor vehicle for six months.
As is evident, the penalties can be quite severe: in addition to the monetary fine and license loss, the individual would have a disorderly persons offense in his/her criminal history which could impact future educational goals as well as job prospects.
There is even more to consider if one is not a US citizen. A conviction of underage gambling could, at the very least, be viewed negatively in any type of situation where discretion plays a large part. For example, any applicant applying for naturalization must demonstrate good moral character. A conviction for this type of offense would normally have to be disclosed during the process, calling one’s character into question, especially if the applicant has other criminal convictions or bad acts in addition to this. Additionally, the USCIS Policy manual notes that two or more gambling offenses constitute a conditional bar to good moral character during the statutory period.
Any non-US Citizen facing or convicted of this type of charge should consult with an immigration attorney to explore the possible effect, if any, on status. In addition to applications for US citizenship, an arrest or conviction of this offense-like any criminal incident–should be discussed with a lawyer within the context of any green card application (adjustment of status or consular), non-immigrant visa, or humanitarian based benefit such as DACA, proposed DAPA, TPS, asylum, etc. Whether or not the crime is a basis of deportability/inadmissibility or poses a mandatory or conditional bar, an attorney may be able to help you identify extenuating circumstances that could help to mitigate the situation.
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