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.
Journal story reports that the text of the advertisement
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
'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
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.