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Oregon Lottery Both Helps and Pitches to Latinos

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Oregon Lottery
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Half of all Oregonians play the state lottery and up to five percent of them are problem gamblers. The Lottery is now aiming more help at Latino problem gamblers.  At the same time, in a departure from the past, it is also now promoting its games to Latinos and other minorities. 

Octavio would head to the video poker machines at Shari's before work and Denny's after work every day and all day on weekends:

"El juego no fue algo divertido despues, fue una necesidad..."

Gambling, Octavio says, became a necessity, not something to do for fun. He later successfully went through rehab. Miguel Tellez mixed gambling with other addictions:

"I lost a home.  I was divorced twice. And all that as a result of the gambling and the subsequent alcohol or drug use."

Tellez now counsels Latino gambling addicts for Volunteers of America:

"If you've got the big win, you want to do it again because it supplemented paying the rent and everything else.  They eventually end up losing more than they are winning, but they are in the trap of the addiction already."

While Latinos gamble at least as much as other Oregonians and have the same rate of problems, they are far less likely to come forward and get the free help that the Oregon Lottery funds.  Lottery Director Jack Roberts says that's partly because they don't know about the help:

"If our outreach is entirely in the English language and American culture, it's pretty clear we're missing a good segment of the people who are our players and we have a responsibility to them as well."

So the Lottery created a web site, brochures, and a hotline--844-TU VALES--you're worth it, in Spanish:

(Sound of public service announcement in Spanish)

Miguel Tellez says the new outreach is already having an impact and it's needed. Gambling takes a proportionately higher toll on Latinos in Oregon because they are significantly poorer than other Oregonians:

"When you don't have much to lose in the first place and you lose that, it's pretty horrific. Families are broken, don't know where their next meal is gonna come, evicted, living in the car."

In fact, the Lottery has long had a practice of not promoting its games to Latinos and other minorities. Now, along with doing more to help Latino problem gamblers, it has decided to advertise its games to minorities as well.  Lottery Director Jack Roberts:

"It's a little condescending to say, well we think that you're probably not able to handle this as well as some other parts of the community and you say yes statistically they're poor, but not surely, by no means is every Latino under the poverty line. Most of them are not. And the fastest growing segment of the Latino community is middle class."

Roberts says another reason the Lottery  began advertising to Latinos and African Americans is minority media companies want the business.

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