WyBETT
                             Wyomingites for a Better Economy Today and Tomorrow
WyBETT   Wyomingites for a Better Economy Today and Tomorrow
 
 New Mexico Health Department Study on Compulsive 
 Gambling

In a study done jointly by the New Mexico State Health Department and the University of New Mexico, it has been determined that there are about 40,000 serious problem gamblers in our state. Although the study indicated that those engaged in state lottery and horse racing constitute significant numbers of gamblers, casino gambling in all its forms involve over half of the gamblers in the study.

According to an article by Tina Griego in the November 31, 1996 Tribune, "New Mexico is seeing the first signs of the trouble that accompanies slot machines, one of the nation's leading experts on compulsive gambling has warned. This week, the state Department of Health said that about 40,000 New Mexicans reported having serious gambling problems in the past year...

"The survey of 1,279 adults comes just as Gov. Gary Johnson has introduced a bill that would legalize tribal casinos and slot machines at non-profit clubs and the state's horse racetracks.

"Of the people who gambled in New Mexico during the past year, most played the state-sponsored lottery, according to the study. The second most popular form was slot machines. The most frequent gamblers are Hispanic males, but more female Hispanics reported serious gambling problems.

"Someone was considered to have a serious problem if they did something illegal to get money to gamble; lost their job or dropped out of school because of gambling; argued repeatedly with people they live with over gambling; or had to borrow money to pay basic living expenses because they gambled their money away."

Representative "Dub" Williams, the sponsor of HB399, one of the major gambling bills, expressed a less pessimistic view of the gambling outcome, saying, "I think we do have a population in this state that has a problem, and this bill sets aside some money to help them...My heart goes out to those people, but again, we are back to the issue of personal responsibility. How far do we go to protect people from themselves?"

The article refers to efforts by the tribes to identify compulsive gambling by stating, "Many of the state's 11 tribal casinos now post signs that warn customers to know when to stop, before you start, and list phone numbers for local chapters of Gamblers Anonymous. The governor's bill would force tribes to set aside no less than one-quarter of I percent of their net winnings to support programs treating compulsive gamblers."

Addressing the prospects gambling bills have in the legislature, " ...House Speaker Raymond Sanchez assigned Johnson's bill to four committees-a hurdle that will be tough to leap. Even the most agreeable of bills has a hard time surviving the scrutiny of four committees. And House committees have traditionally been a killing ground for gambling bills.

Sanchez said earlier this week that the four committee chairmen agreed to hold joint hearings to speed all gambling bills toward a vote by all 70 House members."

The article goes on to cite Dr.Valerie Lorenz, executive director of Baltimore's Compulsive Gambling Center, "The more available gambling is, the more people will play, and the greater the chance they will become addicted...I testified to that in Congress in 1983, and it's still the same 14 years later in state after state after state. Why any governor or Legislature would want to run that risk is to me is impeachable, "she said.