So what do we need, a burning bush?

By Ned Cantwell

Will famine descend upon New Mexico before we get the idea?
Will diseased beetles swarm around a casino entrance until finally someone wakes up and says, oh oh, something is amiss?
When all the slots start turning up 6 6 6 instead of 7 7 7, will a light bulb suddenly flash on?
I mean, how many signs will it take until we realize this gambling stuff is getting out of hand? The problem is a national one but New Mexico is right in the thick of it.
We educate our kids with lottery profits. Our Indian reservations are raking in millions with their casinos. The horse racing industry said, hold on, folks, no fair: Why should we go broke while the Indians make all the money? So now you don’t even have to watch the races. Sit there and play the slots and bet on the nag at the same time.
You can’t walk to one of New Mexico’s beautiful attractions without tripping over a slot machine. And more is on the way. Hobbs figured oil is too chancy, so that city is getting a racetrack and casino.
Once an advocate of open gambling, I enjoy occasionally feeding the slots. But it has spun out of control.
Walk through the casino. There is a housewife losing the family food money. That guy over there has just blown the mortgage payment. There are a couple of hundred bankruptcies each week in New Mexico. Some enterprising reporter should find out how many are gambling related.
Who is the typical casino crawler? Some retired guy passing lonely days shoving coins into a nickel machine? Some poor slob looking to escape his dreary life by hitting a jackpot? Sure, there is some of that, but look again.
There was Karen Yontz. Karen was a highly regarded career law enforcement officer who most recently served as an investigator for the state Attorney General. She was a fine lady, 50, married to a solid guy who is assistant DA for Bernalillo County.
So why did Karen all of a sudden start robbing banks? And why, a couple of Fridays back, did she run from the police and end up getting shot dead on the streets of Albuquerque? Suicide by cops, some suspected.
That mystery was answered several days later when it was learned Karen Yontz had lost $100,000 or more at games of chance. Life was closing in on her because she couldn’t repay a piddling $8,000 loan. And now she is dead, a victim of bullets and gaming.
Then there’s Bill Bennett who recently brought his message of virtue and family values to Southern New Mexico. If there was ever a guy who breathed righteousness and self-control, it was old Bill.
Guess what. It has been divulged that Bennett could not stay away from the slot machines and has lost a few shekels during recent years. Eight million shekels, to be exact. Eight million bucks. That buys a bunch of virtue.
The slots blink their welcome, the dice bounce, the roulette wheel spins. And locusts fill the skies.

Ned Cantwell of Ruidoso is a retired newspaper publisher and member of the New Mexico Press Association Hall of Fame. E-mail him at: