WyBETT
                             Wyomingites for a Better Economy Today and Tomorrow
WyBETT   Wyomingites for a Better Economy Today and Tomorrow
 
 New Mexico Woman at High Risk for Gambling Addiction

In an article by reporter Wren Propp in theWednesday, May 24, 2000 Albuquerque Journal, a picture is portrayed showing that gambling addiction is proving to be a health problem of major proportions for New Mexico women.

Ms. Prop writes, that according to an executive with the New Mexico Council for Problem Gambling, far more women than men are calling the council's hot line for compulsive gamblers.

"'Women's health providers and women's groups really need to look at compulsive gambling as a women's health issue,' Daniel Blackwood, the council's executive program director, said Tuesday.

In the first quarter of 2000, women accounted for about 69 percent of the calls to the council's toll-free help line for problem and compulsive gamblers. The help line offers crisis intervention and referrals.

Female callers also used the help line more than men in the last half of 1999, according to quarterly reports. Blackwood said women are twice as likely as men to seek help by calling crisis lines.

But he said the percentage of women calling the help line nevertheless reinforces a 1996 study paid for by the New Mexico Department of Health and the University of New Mexico that identified women as a high-risk group for problem and compulsive gambling.

He said New Mexico's high poverty rate is a big factor in why women are drawn to slot machines, video poker and other gambling here.

"Women, especially in a poor state, will be vulnerable to escaping the pain they are in and the loneliness they feel, rather than in a state where conditions are better," Blackwood said.

The percent who say they are victims of domestic abuse or suffer from an alcohol or drug addiction has grown. In the first quarter of 2000, about 11 percent of callers to the hot line said they had been victims of domestic abuse, compared to 6 percent in the last quarter of 1999.

And nearly a third of the callers in 2000 said they had some kind of alcohol or drug dependency, compared to 24 percent in late 1999.

And the amount of gambling debt reported by callers is escalating, Blackwood said.

During the last quarter, callers identified as compulsive gamblers said they had accumulated gambling debts averaging $22,212. Callers to the help line from October to December 1999 reported accumulating average debts of $18,650.

"That's a staggering figure when you consider the per-capita income basis of our state," Blackwood said.

Per-capita income in New Mexico was $19,936 in 1998 - the most recent figure available from the state Department of Health.

Blackwood said he does not know how many New Mexicans are compulsive gamblers, but he estimated that about 5 percent of gamblers in the state are compulsive. That means they often lie, cheat, steal and borrow money in
order to gamble.

Compulsive gambling brings deadly consequences, Blackwood said. Compulsive gambling carries a high "lethality" rate - for suicide and homicide - compared with other addictions, he said.

The council has a contract with the state lottery to publish its
help-line number, (800) 572-1142, on future printings of lottery tickets.

Racetracks and clubs have donated money to the council, as have a few tribal casinos. Casinos, racetracks and fraternal and veterans clubs are required by the state to spend one-quarter of 1 percent of their slot-machine profits on help for compulsive gamblers."

Clearly any benefits the state has derived from the expanded gambling legalized in 1997 has been far outweighed by the damage to its citizens.