Wyomingites for a Better Economy Today and Tomorrow
WyBETT   Wyomingites for a Better Economy Today and Tomorrow

In 1996, the New Mexico Department of Health released a study called the New Mexico Survey of Gambling Behavior 1996. It did an excellent job of describing the alarming rise of serious problem gambling among adults in New Mexico. The Report, however, made the same mistake most people make by assuming that a study of adolescent gambling would not merit significant study, since it is illegal for them to gamble in this state.

Recent national studies report that adolescent gambling is becoming a serious problem. The journal Pediatrics Vol. 102 No. 2 August 1998, p. e23 produced a report on gambling and teens conducted by the Division of Adolescent/Young Adult Medicine, Children's Hospital, Harvard Medical School (see attached news article). The Office of Social Service Research and Development at Louisiana State University released a similar study in October of 1998 (see attached news article). Both studies show that where casino, lottery and other forms of gambling are made legal for adults, a very high percentage of teens from 12 years old and up gamble illegally, and that between 12 to 15 percent of the teens develop serious gambling problems.

The State of New Mexico has in the last few years legalized a state-run lottery and legalized gambling at Indian casinos. Anecdotal evidence is abundant that early to middle-teens in New Mexico are gambling in large numbers. It seems to us that it is the responsibility of the state to investigate the magnitude of the illegal teen gambling problem that is being produced and propose remedies for it.

The New Mexico Coalition Against Gambling has been concerned about this problem, so I have been working with Representative Mimi Stewart, who has been concerned about teen issues in various areas, to try to promote a study of teen gambling. We have been in contact with the New Mexico Lottery Authority, and they have confirmed that 2% of lottery revenue is earmarked for compulsive gambling problems, and thought that this would be a productive use of some of these funds.

The memorial, titled HJM-56, calls for a study of teen gambling, funded by the 2% of lottery income set aside for compulsive gambling problems. The amount specified by the memorial for the study is $125,000. The memorial asks the Lottery Authority to pick an agency or organization to conduct the study. It would seem appropriate for the New Mexico Department of Health to conduct the study, since they have already developed some of the necessary tools for measuring the problem among adults, and have had experience in investigating this problem in New Mexico.

The memorial asks for a study that will determine the percentages of teens in New Mexico that are gambling from 12 years old to 18 years old. It calls for a study of which forms of gambling are used most frequently by the teens and in what percentages. The memorial calls for a determination of family influence on promoting teen gambling, and a study of what effect government sponsorship of gambling has on legitimizing gambling in the minds of the teens.

The study is to determine what percentage of the teens in New Mexico would be considered "serious problem gamblers" according to the criteria used by the New Mexico Department of Health study of 1996. It should determine what percentage of teens resort to illegal means to raise money to support their gambling habit. The study should give good information on what other dangerous and destructive behaviors, such as attempted suicide, as well as drug and alcohol use are promoted by their gambling problems.

The study should also consider possible remedies from outright prohibition of legalized gambling, to security and educational issues. Professor Edward Shaffer from Harvard University predicted that gambling is becoming a larger problem among teens than drug addiction. A few years ago teen gambling wasn’t even a consideration in the minds of social scientists and government planners. If we want many in the rising generation to have a decent future, we need to look this problem straight in the face and determine exactly how much damage is being done to our adolescents. We encourage passage of HJM-56.

Dr. Guy C. Clark, executive director

New Mexico Coalition Against Gambling