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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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NMSU HTS Program Prepares for Increased N.M. Gaming

LAS CRUCES - New gambling enterprises in light of a proposed Indian gaming compact and possible expansion of gaming operations off reservations should be coordinated with a larger tourism plan. That's the opinion of the director of New Mexico State University's hospitality and tourism services (HTS) program.

"There's more to opening a casino than just setting up a roulette wheel and slot machines," said Patrick Moreo of NMSU's College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences . "A casino operation needs to be part of a total, comprehensive tourism package that includes hotel, restaurant, golf course, club and resort management."

If gaming expansion transpires after this legislative session in Santa Fe, NMSU would need to supplement its HTS program with casino management and related training.

"Las Vegas, Nevada, got into gaming in the 1940s and they're still building that industry," Moreo said. "They have taken a comprehensive view of gaming, and had the foresight to start the hotel and restaurant management program at University of Nevada at Las Vegas. That program has really prospered and casino operations has been a big part of it."

The program Moreos run since July 1994 is a solid base for building the state's gaming industry," he said. Before graduating with a bachelor's degree, NMSU's HTS students receive a blend of classroom instruction and practical experience through internships with national hotel chains or resorts -- some with casino operations.

"Our students come back from an internship with a good understanding of hospitality and the importance of tourism to an economy," he said. "Above all, we teach service because service is the key to a successful operation."

Of concern to some New Mexicans is what gaming will do to the moral fabric of a community. For example, with each new . casino comes the age-old problem of the pathological gambler, one who's willing to risk everything for one more hand of cards or toss of the dice.

"We as a public institution, community and state have a responsibility to address that problem," Moreo said. "We're in a position to train New Mexico's gaming business personnel in how to identify the problem gambler and provide rehabilitation programs through these businesses and other agencies for people with those problems-"

"A similar training program has proved effective at some Nevada resorts," he said.

"As a university, we also have sociologists and psychologists who can address these issues, so we think that we're in a perfect position to be of service," he said.

Despite the social burden, Moreo views increased gaming in a positive light.

"No matter what venue gaming takes in New Mexico, the way to look at this is to see how everyone can benefit from it," he said. "There are tremendous opportunities if the people and the government of New Mexico decide to allow and condone gaming. Whether it be for the Indian tribal peoples or expanded throughout other parts of the state, this activity will enhance tourism."