New Mexico tribes step up to measure human cost of gaming legalization

The rise of legalized gambling in New Mexico has been a boon to tribal and the state economies, but there’s more than profits at the bottom line.

There’s the human cost of doing business.

Measuring the financial impact of easily accessed and increasingly sophisticated Native American casinos as well as the state’s own proliferating game of chance – the lottery – is a matter of accounting. The human cost is a trickier, and more political, calculus.

While it can be a simple matter to chart an uptick in bankruptcy filings and the kind of embezzlement crimes often linked to compulsive gambling behavior, arriving at the right percentages is a different matter. And as society becomes ever more obsessed with its cell and computer technology, and the opportunities to gamble online continue to grow, some gaming observers speculate that compulsive behavior may rise accordingly.

In New Mexico, tribal governments have begun funding an association aimed at studying problem gambling in the state, Thom Cole of the Santa Fe New Mexican recently reported. Conducted by the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation of Washington, D.C., it is being touted as the first in-depth look at the issue in a decade. In all, $292,000 has been earmarked for the study, funded by the tribes under their Responsible Gaming of New Mexico group. The last study was undertaken in 2006.

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