State should gamble future on better things

By Ned Cantwell: State columnist

Stay out of our bedrooms, you busybody feds. While you’re at it, stay out of our kitchens, and living rooms, and workplaces.

Most of all, keep your grubby hands off our casinos. If we want a giant jackpot machine beckoning visitors as they cross into our state on I-25 or I-40, that’s our business.
Have you heard about our new motto? “New Mexico — Hit Me.” Welcome to the Land of Enchancement.

Gambling makes New Mexico as happy as Bill Richardson lost in a chocolate bar factory. What you federal guys don’t know is that New Mexico not only likes gambling, it thrives on it. Look at our lobbyists. Do you know how many casino and racetrack guys are cozying up to state legislators? Scores of them.

Know how many are up there fighting the expansion of New Mexico gambling? One. Guy Clark of the New Mexico Coalition Against Gambling. He feels about as comfortable as Dick Cheney at a hunter safety course.

The thing is, gambling is what makes our state go. We had racetracks way back when cars had fins, but in the last 15 years the industry has exploded. It is no longer just an enticement designed to fleece unwary visitors, primarily big-spending Texans. New Mexico will now enrich herself at the expense of her own. The mother consumes her offspring.
Indian tribes fueled the gambling juggernaut. Abject poverty and the need for economic stimulation gave the green light to casinos that have become the centerpiece of sprawling developments with luxury hotels and lush golf courses.

It wasn’t long before the state’s racetracks started crying foul. The casinos were hitting blackjacks and the tracks were going bust. No problem, said the New Mexico Legislature. You can have casinos, too. So places like Sunray Park in Farmington began to cash in.

Towns like Hobbs, which was starting to look like an abandoned western movie set, said, whoa, we need help, too. We don’t have an Indian tribe, or a racetrack, or a casino. No problem, said the New Mexico Legislature. You can have a racetrack and a casino. Hobbs is looking spiffy again. Is Tucumcari to follow?

We are now on the brink of a new era of gambling expansion, Indian tribes building casinos on non-tribal land. The Jemez Pueblo located in mountains northwest of Albuquerque wants to establish a gambling joint in the southern Dona Ana County town of Anthony.

Well, why shouldn’t New Mexico have the right to put it all on the pass line if it wants to? No way, says one powerful United States congressman. California Republican Richard Pombo, who chairs the House Resources Committee, has pending a bill that blocks such projects as the planned Jemez Pueblo casino.

He says his legislation would close a federal loophole that allows Indians to acquire non-tribal land for the purpose of building casinos.
Where does Mr. Federal Big Shot Nibby Nose get off? What does he want New Mexico to do, go out and find clean, productive industry that will provide economic development without chasing people into slot machine addicted bankruptcy? Is he nuts?

Actually, there are people who think Congressman Pombo is holding the right cards. Activists like Guy Clark say it is time to hedge our bets and gamble our economic future on something more than slot machines and dice tables.

And Guy Clark is right.

Ned Cantwell lost 10 bucks at Sunland Park last summer and he’s still miffed. Contact him at: