Gambling in San Bernardino

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The San Manuel Indian Bingo and Casino in San Bernardino. (Photo: Bobbi Albano)

The San Manuel Indian Bingo and Casino in San Bernardino. (Photo: Bobbi Albano)

“I made big wins, but always gave it back,” remarked an ex-gambler in a local Gamblers Anonymous self-help program. Unlike drug addiction or even alcoholism, a gambling problem isn’t a problem you can spot on someone. "If you look at me, I look like anybody else,” my new friend continued.

Not everyone who gambles is a problem gambler. "A certain number gamble excessively and become problem and pathological gamblers, harming themselves, their families, and their communities," according to the 2006 report prepared by the California State LibraryGambling in the Golden State.

My new friend recounts, "I was raising a family. I made plenty of money, but the utilities were always getting shut off." His family apparently got tired of the lies and the stealing from the family coffers. "I reached my bottom, my family left."

Not only can problem gambling ruin the individual life, it is a social problem as well. Gambling in the Golden State  says "research suggests that crime rises as casinos attract visitors who either commit or are the victims of crime.”San Bernardino is home to the San Manuel Indian Bingo and Casino, a 100,000 square foot gaming facility located on the reservation of the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians. In an area that is riddled with economic disparity and crime, the casino seems like an odd place for thousands of people to flock to every weekend. But many San Bernardino residents spend their time, and their money, at the casino.

Michael Alexander, a resident of San Bernardino visits the casino once or twice a week. "Usually the first time I go, I lose. Then I have to keep going back to try and recoup." He said that he can go two or three months at a time without going to the casino. "I go in spurts."

Marciella Lopez, a 22-year old resident of San Bernardino just had her first experience at the casino. The casino offers a birthday package for guests who visit on their birthday which includes slot credit. With her credit, Lopez won $100. "It felt good. I was happy."

But gambling is more risky for young people. In 2003, the California Nations Indian Gambling Association (CNIGA) held its first symposium on problem gambling. A CNIGA newsletter article [PDF} about the symposium reported, "The prevalence rate for problem gambling among teen-agers and young adults is two to four times that of adults. And while young people have historically grown out of the proclivity to gambling responsibly by the time they reached adulthood, some experts fear the trend may not continue." According to the California Council on Problem Gambling, "6% of the teens who have tried gambling have become pathological gamblers." San Manuel's website includes a “Responsible Gaming” page with resources that the gambler, family or friends can use for help with gambling problems.


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About Bobbi Albano

Roberta (Bobbi) Albano was raised in the San Joaquin Valley, moving to the Inland Empire in 1996. She settled in San Bernardino where she raised her two boys, bought a home and fell in love with the people and the community. Bobbi is working toward her MBA in Health Care Administration from the School of Public Health at Loma Linda University. Bobbi has worked for the County of San Bernardino and currently works for Loma Linda University. Her experience working with and for the people of San Bernardino broadens her perspective of social issues and their effect on her community. Her close relationship with Loma Linda University enables her to have access to the most respected professionals in the health field. She is excited about bringing her experience, resources and love of her community to KQED's Our State of Health.

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