Gambling and politics

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The gambling industry, once considered a pariah in American politics, has emerged in the 1990s as an important political player.

The newfound power of the "gaming industry," as it likes to call itself, has been reflected in the changing positions of U.S. president George W. Bush. As governor of Texas, Bush wooed religious conservatives by boasting of his "strong antigambling record," moving to shut down an Indian-run casino and declaring, "Casino gambling is not OK. It has ruined the lives of too many adults, and it can do the same thing to our children." As a presidential candidate, by contrast, he has accepted large campaign contributions from casinos and even appeared personally at a Las Vegas casino for a fundraiser for his reelection campaign.

"Bush's retreat from his antigambling rhetoric came as Republican lobbyists and activist groups collected tens of millions of dollars from Indian tribes seeking to preserve their casinos," reported the Boston Globe. "When Bush was a firm opponent of gambling, his position opened the door for GOP lobbyists to court gaming tribes worried about a tough administration policy. After Bush dropped his antigambling rhetoric, lobbyists touted their access, and fund-raising from Indian tribes grew exponentially."

As a result, says Tom Grey, a Methodist minister who heads the National Coalition Against Legalized Gambling, "gambling has become the feeding trough" for politicians. [1]

The Tigua

Bush's personal role centered around the Tigua Indian tribe, which opened a casino in El Paso, Texas after Congress passed legislation in 1988 clearing the way for Indian gaming. Bush took a hard line against the casino, which was eventually closed down in part thanks to aggresive campaign by former Christian Coalition head Ralph Reed and Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Ironically, Reed's campaign against the Tigua casino was financed by rival Indian tribes that were also involved in gambling and wanted to eliminate competition from the Tiguas. Even more ironically, Reed and Abramoff then offered their services to the Tigua, collecting millions of dollars in fees as the Tigua paid them to lobby for reopening the casino they had just shut down.

"The key to the deal, Abramoff told the Tiguas in e-mails, was that they had to start supporting Republicans with significant contributions," reported the Boston Globe. "He laid out a plan for the Tiguas to make contributions to various Republican politicians and committees. For example, the Tiguas gave $90,000 to three national Republican committees in March 2002, just after the tribe met with Abramoff, according to federal records.

"Eventually, Abramoff sketched out an elaborate deal involving contributions to key members of Congress, but though the tribe came through with some of the contributions, the deal fell apart. The casino remained closed." [2]

During Bush's 2004 re-election campaign, he received $345,610 in campaign contributions from gambling interests, compared to only $100,000 received by Kerry.

See also

External links

  • Michael Kranish, "Gambling, GOP politics intertwine," Boston Globe, June 3, 2005.
  • Bob Martin, "Losing the high ground," The Montgomery [Alabama] Independent, August 19, 2005: "Now, after the start of Sen. John McCain's inquiry into the looting of nearly $100 million in American Indian gambling revenues by lobbyists Jack Abramoff, Grover Norquist, Michael Scanlon and Ralph Reed, it appears that millions of dollars from tribes with gambling facilities found their way into the hands of the Christian Coalition, the Coalition Against Gambling Expansion and others who were using the Indian funding, particularly money from the Mississippi Choctaws, to fight a lottery and video gaming in Alabama."