For any presidential candidate, taking a stand on legalized gambling on legalized online poker is a bit risky, but for Mitt Romney, a practicing member of the Church of the Latter Day Saints, the stakes are a little bit higher. If he comes out against it, he’s vilified by states’ rights supporters. Endorsing online poker could anger fellow members and weaken his already shaky support amongst evangelicals.

That’s why Romney’s recent pledge to look into the subject and take a stand on it before the Iowa caucuses in January took gambling industry watchers by surprise.

What’s Behind the Pledge?

Romney’s willingness to take a look at online gaming isn’t particularly surprising given the venue he announced it in; an interview with the Las Vegas Sun. Mitt Romney is the frontrunner in the Silver State’s Republican primary, but he may be overplaying his hand a bit on this one.

Nevada has a larger Mormon population than most people suspect and it’s widely believed that heavy turnout from that demographic helped Romney win the 2008 GOP primary in that state. If Romney hopes to carry Nevada in the 2012 primary, and general election, he’ll need that group’s support again. For the record, the Church of the Latter Day Saints is opposed to all forms of gambling.

The Flippin’ and the Floppin’

Romney has earned a reputation for taking multiple, and opposing, views on subjects ranging from immigration to health care, so it’s not surprising to find out that he’s flip flopped a bit on gambling, too.

Back when he was governor of Massachusetts, Romney came out in favor of expanded legalized gaming, namely slots, to help close a large budget deficit. But Romney back pedaled his support and many insiders believed that his presidential aspirations were the main motivation behind the flip flop.

Handicapping Romney’s Stance

Affiliates and gamblers should remember that Romney is vying for his party’s nomination, not the general election. Voters in the crucial early GOP primary states like Iowa and New Hampshire are very conservative and aren’t likely to be impressed by a pro-gambling stance.

And despite that obvious states’ rights issues brought up by issues like gambling and medical marijuana, GOP candidates have been reluctant to support them, especially in primary season. So don’t be surprised if Romney’s surprised stance on the subject turns out to be less-than-definitive.

What do you think of Romney’s stance on online gaming? Let us know in our general discussion forum.

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