Tonto Apaches Chip In To Aid Compulsive Gamblers

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Statistics compiled in a National Gambling Impact Study reveal that there are as many as 7.5 million Americans who are problem or pathological gamblers.

To combat the rising trend, nine of Arizona's tribal nations -- including the Tonto Apaches -- have chipped in to help fund the Arizona Council on Compulsive Gambling, a non-profit agency designed to help problem gamblers. Those nine tribes have thrown into the pot $276,000 of the $322,000 budget of the five-year-old agency.

"I don't know exactly how much we contributed, but we did make a donation," said James McDermott, general manager of the Tonto Apaches' Mazatzal Casino.

During his tenure as head of the casino, McDermott said he hasn't seen that much of a compulsive gambling problem in Payson.

According to McDermott, who attended a seminar on addicted gamblers, there are two types of players: the action gambler and the relief or escape gambler.

"The action gambler is one who likes to bet on sports and play table games," he said. "Those people are generally male.

"The relief gambler is typically female, and plays the slot machines, bingo and the lottery."

McDermott said the Mazatzal Casino does its best to help any type of addicted gambler.

"We have a hotline number and brochures that we hand out to people about compulsive gambling," he said. "We also continue to do, through the tribal gaming office, what we call self-exclusion. That's when a patron who feels they have a gambling problem approaches us and asks us to exclude them from the casino. We do that when they request that, and we see that happen maybe once a month."

Providing assistance for the compulsive gambler is the right thing to do, McDermott said.

"We look at the casino as strictly entertainment," he said. "We're looking at discretionary income. We're not interested in having people gamble away their rent money or money they need to sustain their livelihood."

To learn more about the gambling council, call the hotline at (800) 777-7207.

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