Inside the Capitol

Monday, October 02, 2006

10-6 Gambling and Sports

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- That was quick. Just a few weeks after a state think tank called for the New Mexico Lottery to rebid its contract for online vendor services, the Lottery's chief executive officer announced he will do it.
Last month, Think New Mexico issued a scathing report detailing how the New Mexico Lottery needs to cut costs. The number one recommendation was that the online vendor contract be rebid.
The contract doesn't expire for two more years but Lottery chief executive Tom Romero announced last week that it will be rebid by the end of this year.
If GTech, the current vendor loses the bid, the change can't be made until November 2008, but it would at least give both companies adequate notice of the changeover.
The Think New Mexico report revealed that GTech currently is charging 8.52 percent of sales for its services, while similar states are paying as little as 2.16 percent to their vendors. It also outlined numerous scandals in which GTech has been involved.
The purpose of Think New Mexico's cost saving recommendations was to free up more money for the college scholarships the lottery was created to fund.
But that apparently is where Think New Mexico and the Lottery Authority part ways. Romero wants to keep all the money saved by the rebid to hire more staff and do more promotion. Think New Mexico says those costs already are too high.
It appears we are in for more controversy and intrigue.
* * *
Elsewhere in the arena of New Mexico gaming, the do-nothing 109th Congress adjourned without passing legislation banning off-reservation casinos that was pending in both houses.
That means Jemez Pueblo and Santa Fe tycoon Jerry Peters can continue to pursue their plan to build a casino near Anthony on New Mexico's southern border.
That effort has produced a determined clash between Peters and Stan Fulton, owner of the Sunland Park race track and casino. We're in for more controversy and intrigue on this matter too.
* * *
Switching from gambling to athletics, which sometimes isn't much of a switch, the New Mexico Lobo men's basketball team finished dead last this year in national rankings of academic success with a miserable 7 percent graduation rate.
The football team did much better, at 43 percent, but still ranked last in the Mountain West Conference. Performance like that surely makes it difficult to continue calling these guys "student athletes," doesn't it?
This column has often advocated for a system that allows athletes, who don't care about being students, to take another avenue to get to the pros. Colleges call these students "academically fragile." It's also difficult to call someone "fragile" who can slam dunk a basketball.
But that's the way it is. We're told Lobo basketball graduation rates will look much better next year.
* * *
We're also told that New Mexico high schools are ranked next to last in interesting team nicknames. A national survey liked Carlsbad Cavemen and St. Michael's Horsemen and that was it. Texas led the list with 52 nicknames that are unusual or funny.
Sure, there are 10 teams in the state that are eagles and about 30 more that are ferocious cats -- lions, tigers, panthers, jaguars or wildcats. But I have to defend New Mexico athletic teams on this one.
The selection committee obviously missed some good ones, the best being Santa Fe Prep's Blue Griffins. In case it's been awhile since anyone made you read mythology, a griffin is half lion and half eagle -- the kings of land and air. What could be more fearsome?
And sure, renaming the Dexter Demons the Hush Puppies would be cute, but it won't do much to inspire your players or intimidate the opposition. And if there's anything a high schooler doesn't like, it's to be embarrassed.
FRI, 10-06-06

JAY MILLER, 3 La Tusa, Santa Fe, NM 87505
(ph) 982-2723, (fax) 984-0982, (e-mail)



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