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

On Friday, March 26, 2004, Jeff Jones reported in the Albuquerque Journal that the Isleta Pueblo discontinued running a TV ad that had run for several weeks encouraging debt-ridden locals to come to their casino to get bailed out. 

The Journal story reports that the text of the advertisement  begins:"'So, the holidays have passed, and those credit card bills just keep piling up, and there seems to be no relief in sight. How will you pay those huge bills?' a narrator asks in a 30-second Isleta Casino & Resort television spot that aired recently on several New Mexico stations.
    'Well— Isleta Casino Resort comes to your rescue!' the ad says.
    Local television stations confirmed the spot stopped airing on Tuesday.
    'No comment on anything about your story," Isleta casino general manager Barry Milligan said Thursday.
    Guy Clark, executive director of the New Mexico Coalition Against Gambling, called the Isleta spot outrageous.
    One recovering gambling addict said in a letter to the casino that an ad pitch like Isleta's is 'deadly' for addicts trying to keep their problem in check."
    The Journal reports on how the ad plays out a little drama for the viewers.  "The ad suggesting the casino can help people with debt problems begins in black-and-white and features a man who appears to be at his wit's end. Organ music plays in the background before the narrator calls Isleta Casino a financial rescuer.
    The ad concludes with a woman who smiles broadly and laughs while someone thumbs a stack of crisp cash into her outstretched palm."
    The article quotes NMCAG executive director Dr. Guy Clark.  "Clark, the longtime gambling critic, said the ad leaves the impression that people down on their bills can get the cash they need by gambling.
    'The odds are set up for the house,' Clark said. 'You may owe for Christmas. But if you stay there long enough, you may lose your house. This is plain, flat lying.'
    The article also quotes a couple of victims of gambling addiction.  "Patricia, who described herself as a recovering gambling addict, fired off a complaint letter addressed to the casino and sent a copy to the Journal.
    'This type of ad is, to put it mildly, deadly to those of us caught up in gambling addiction,' she wrote in the March 15 letter. 'Seeing an ad that suggests bills can be paid by gambling and winning quite simply adds fuel to (the) fire, a fire the addict cannot control.'
    The 57-year-old Albuquerque woman said during an interview on Tuesday that she racked up $75,000 in debt before seeking help. She now does volunteer work for a gambling-help group.
    'We are always constantly chasing money. 'Gonna win that money back— just one big win,'  Patricia said. 'It is an illusion.'"
     The Journal story focused national attention on the outrageous Isleta ad.  Associated Press ran a story, as well as USA Today and an online Indian newspaper, INDIANZ.  Harpers Magazine is also working on coverage of the story. 

Since the article appeared, Governor Alvino Lucero of the Isleta Pueblo issued an apology that was written up on the Journal editorial page and sparked another front page story in the Albuquerque Journal.  He said that no tribal leaders previewed the ad, and that the marketing director acted improperly.  It's pretty hard to imagine that none of the tribal leadership screen tens of thousands of dollars worth of ads or watch them on TV. 

Governor Lucero insisted that their motivation is providing "entertainment" for their patrons.  Numerous studies have concluded that from 35% to 50% of casino revenue come from gambling addicts.  Addicts are the "life blood" of casinos, so that desperate people are necessary for casinos to prosper.  The marketing director was simply aiming at the desperate people the business manager of the casino knows are essential for their success.  Appealing to entertainment gamblers is the usual shotgun approach to marketing that casinos use, but this ad was a sniper's rifle bullet aimed directly at the heart of the desperate, the uneducated and the poor.