| New Mexico Survey of Gambling Behavior
NM STUDY ON GAMBLING DESCRIBES PUBLIC HEALTH CRISIS
The 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, Governor 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%. 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.
Governor 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% to
550% increases in the numbers of addicted gamblers." Dr. Rachel Volberg, director of
Gemini Research, probably the most respected gambling addiction research organization in
the U.S., found that the rate of problem and pathological gambling rose from 1.7% to 5.4%
of the adult population in Iowa in an eight year period of time, during which river-boat
casinos were legalized and operating in Iowa.
Governor 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 life-blood 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
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% of Hispanics have serious gambling problems. 12.7%
of young people aged 18-20 have serious gambling problems. 8.3% of those with incomes
below $10,000 per year, and 11% 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 businesses, 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.
Dr. Guy C. Clark, executive director
New Mexico Coalition Against Gambling