Wyomingites for a Better Economy Today and Tomorrow
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  Addicts are Lifeblood of Casino

By Guy C. Clark
N.M. Coalition Against Gambling

study, "New Mexico Survey of Gambling Behavior 1996," produced by the New Mexico Department of Health and the University of New Mexico Center for Alcoholism, Substance Abuse and Addictions, has presented a disturbing picture of a major public health crisis in New Mexico. This report tells us that about 137,000 people in New Mexico are having minor to moderate gambling problems, and about 40,000 people are having serious gambling problems. Compulsive gambling is a disease recognized by the American Psychiatric Association, having a distinct list of criteria that distinguish it as a disease. If some new bacterium or virus appeared that seriously afflicted 40,000 citizens in our state, the whole force of the state would be brought to bear to investigate it, and everything possible would be done to stop it.

When asked about the results of the survey, Gov. Gary Johnson, revealing his ignorance about public health and addiction, as well as his indifference to the substantial suffering he has helped to promote in New Mexico, suggested that gambling addicts probably substitute their gambling addiction for alcoholism and were probably better off for it. Many scientific studies around the country find a direct connection with gambling addiction and alcohol and drug abuse-gambling addiction increases drug dependence. Professor Henry Lesieur from the University of Illinois indicates that pathological gamblers have alcohol and substance abuse rates of nearly 50 percent. If the governor had read his own health department's study, he would have found that on page 17 it reports a synergistic relationship between compulsive gambling and alcoholism.

Gov. Johnson also seemed to be saying that addicts are sort of interchangeable-a zero-net-gain sort of equilibrium. Many of the gambling industry's apologists suggest that there are a fixed number of gambling addicts in society, and that they just rotate from one venue to another. Lottery on Monday and the tracks on Tuesday. Scientific research paints a very different picture. Relying on national field research, Professor John Kindt, also from the University of Illinois, states, "Current data shows that when gambling activities are legalized, economies will be plagued with 100 percent to S50 percent increases in the numbers of addicted gamblers." Dr. Rachel Volberg, director of Gemini Research, probably the most respected gambling addiction research organization in the United States, found that the rate of problem and pathological gambling rose from 1.7 percent to 5.4 percent of the adult population in Iowa in an eight year period of time, during which river-boat casinos were legalized and operating in Iowa.

Gov. Johnson, responding to the Albuquerque Journal, sarcastically said, "Every time I drive to Albuquerque and drive by San Felipe I think about all the people that are just chained in there to the casino." He parrots the regulation gambling industry line that "Casinos Are About Entertainment." Most forms of gambling get substantial amounts of their revenue from the addicts, but casinos are absolutely propelled by addicts. Professor Earl Grinols, an economist from the University of Illinois testifying before Congress on Sept. 29,1995, stated "These two groups (problem and pathological gamblers) typically constitute about 4 percent of the population, but provide slightly more than half of casino revenues." Of course that means that addicts are the lifeblood of casinos. Without question, there are also quite a few people in the casinos gambling for entertainment, but they are partially there as window-dressing, a sort of white-wash over the corruption that lies below the glitzy facade.

On page 12 of "New Mexico Survey of Gambling Behavior 1996" there is a chart that lists gambling status by demographic subgroup that tells a story of devastation and misery: 7.6 percent of Hispanics have serious gambling problems; 12.7 percent of young people aged 18-20 have serious gambling problems; 8.3 percent of those with incomes below $10,000 per year; and 11 percent of those with less than high school diplomas have serious gambling problems. Large numbers of our citizens are having their lives ruined by casino gambling, and our governor belittles them and treats them with contempt. We wonder how many more public officials and casino sympathizers will ridicule the New Mexicans that have been devastated by the casinos.

The casinos remind one of a huge factory, located in the center of a city that spews out toxic waste. People are and will be getting injured or killed by the effluent. The factory is disrupting other business, and damaging the culture of the city, but it is making huge profits and buying support from some officials. Some public figures discount the injury the toxins cause. Other public officials decide that the best effort would be to provide Band-Aids to the injured. The most obvious solution is to close down the factory or get it to stop production. Let's close down casino gambling in New Mexico and stop the devastation that it causes.

Who can tell what the courts will do? Regardless of the courts, the Legislature has the absolute responsibility to vote against any bill that would legalize the casinos and perpetuate and expand the damage to our state and its people.

Albuquerque Journal, op. ed. page
Wednesday, February 12, 1997