POLITICS AND GAMBLING Poker and craps becoming an issue in US presidential campaigns American publications from the venerable Time Magazine to political blogs have been examining the pros and cons of the different gambling styles of presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama recently, contrasting the more "cerebral and skill-based" gaming around poker tables associated with Obama with the bigger spending and fortune oriented action allegedly favoured by McCain. Obama's rather more modest admissions of enjoying a good game of low stakes poker attracted rather less attention than anecdotes protraying McCain as an avid craps player prepared to spend long hours at the table, not so much to make money as to revel in the excitement of winning, depending on the capricious nature of luck. One blog is even investigating whether the Republican candidate has filed proper tax forms after allegations that McCain spent "a few thousand dollars at a time" on crap tables in Vegas and New Orleans. One Republican quoted in a Time piece said: "He clearly knows that this is on the borderline of what is acceptable for him to be doing. And he just sort of revels in it." Back in 2005, an article on McCain in The New Yorker quoted a supporter, Wes Gullett as claiming that they used to play craps in Las Vegas in 14 hour stints, often on fifteen dollar minimum tables, whilst Time outlines a gambling career over the past decade that has seen McCain play "on Mississippi riverboats, Indian land, in Caribbean craps pits and along the length of the Las Vegas Strip."  "Enjoying craps opens up a window on a central thread constant in John's life," John Weaver, McCain's former chief strategist, who followed him to many a casino told Time. "Taking a chance, playing against the odds."  Aides told the magazine that McCain tends to play for a few thousand dollars at a time and avoids taking markers, or loans, from the casinos, which he has helped regulate in Congress. "He never, ever plays on the house," Mark Salter, a McCain adviser, said, adding that the goal is never financial. He loves the thrill of winning and the camaraderie at the table. Time claims that McCain's aides are now urging him to distance himself from gambling, and the magazine reveals that they vetoed his suggestion to set up a game in a private room.   Taking the politics of gambling to ridiculous lengths this week was the state of Minnesota, which is apparently reviewing a funding appeal to raise campaign finances for Obama, which has been seen in some quarters as a possible violation of state gambling laws. The Obama campaign's national website calls for donations of $5 maxed at $2 300 from supporters, with the incentive that ten supporters could win an opportunity to meet with the Democrat presidential candidate in Denver. But the head of the Minnesota Gambling Control Board, Tom Barrett, has requested the state Department of Public Safety to investigate whether the offer constitutes an illegal raffle. Raffles, which take payment in exchange for prizes awarded by chance, are legal in Minnesota only by non-profit charities….and the board's website specifically forbids political campaigns from conducting a raffle of any kind. The reaction from the Obama campaign was fast, with spokesmen vehemently denying that the offer to meet the Senator was a raffle, and claiming that the ten winners would be chosen by "judgments involving their individual histories and stories, not by chance."  Barrett said the contest could be made legal either by stating it was void in Minnesota, or by opening the offer to any who wished to participate, removing the contribution qualification.

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