Newt the Best Choice for Gamblers? Think Again.

TAGs: Jason Kirk, Mitt Romney, newt gingrich, Republicans, Ron Paul

poker-newt-gingrich-mitt-romney-ron-paulThis Sunday, Hartley Henderson published an article on his Off Shore Gaming Association blog, The Insider, about the current crop of Republican presidential candidates and how gamblers could expect to fare if each of them were to win the GOP nomination and then the general election. After spending a paragraph discussing the merits of Ron Paul – the only candidate in the field who has actually put his name behind pro-gambling legislation in recent memory – Henderson dismisses Paul as not having a chance and argues that Newt Gingrich is the best candidate for gamblers. (Editor’s Note: Ron Paul was the runaway favorite in a vote among readers)

Henderson builds his case by first scanning Gingrich’s history for evidence that the former House Speaker supports gambling. The best he can do is to cite Gingrich’s connection to Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire CEO of Las Vegas Sands who has donated $10 million to Gingrich’s super PAC this year, and two votes from the mid-1990s that were beneficial to the casino industry. He also mentions Gingrich’s more recent comments about the perils of gambling for the poor, but then quickly dismisses them because Gingrich could easily be swayed if Adelson were to change his mind. But Adelson is on the record as being morally opposed to online gambling, and a sudden shift from him on that point seems unlikely. In the absence of any other voice suddenly having his ear, Gingrich is likely to stay with his more recent anti-gambling bias.

“As a Mormon, the Church of Latter Day Saints expects Romney to toe their religious line which bans gambling, alcohol and even coffee,” writes Henderson. On the surface that sounds good, but Romney’s Mormon faith isn’t highly likely to be the deciding factor if online poker legislation crosses his desk. Yes, hard-line conservative Mormons are against gambling. But not all Mormons take that kind of stand, especially Mormon politicians who aren’t from Utah and have to worry about winning elections among a diverse population. The best example of this is the man who is considered to be the gambling industry’s best friend in Washington – the former chairman of the Nevada Gaming Commission and current United States Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, who like Romney is a Mormon. Rather than his religious affiliation, Romney’s long track record of doing whatever is politically expedient at a given moment is the best predictor of what he would do as president. Siding with so-called “job creators” like the gaming industry is a lot more expedient right now than opposing economic expansion on religious grounds. Factor in the likely method of passage for any online gambling legislation (attached as a rider to a must-pass bill, much like the UIGEA was in 2006) and the likely content of such a bill (allowing states to opt in or out of online gambling rather than requiring it) and it’s hard to see Romney’s religion being any bigger an obstacle for gamblers than the myriad other stumbling blocks that are already out there.

Instead of opposing Mitt Romney by siding with Gingrich, gamblers would be better off considering the payout from a longer-game approach of getting – and staying – behind Ron Paul. He regularly rails against establishment politics, but Paul doesn’t tend to go after the former Massachusetts governor individually. As the Washington Post’s Amy Gardner reported February 1st, Paul and Romney became friends when they both ran for the presidency in 2008 and have a strategic alliance to stay away from attacking each other during this campaign; Paul benefits by getting a seat at the table when it comes time to put together the party platform, and Romney benefits by earning the support (however begrudging) of the Texas congressman’s fervent base. Compare that with the ego-driven Gingrich, who has made self-aggrandizement and launching broadsides at the front-runner his modus operandi during this election season, and ask yourself who’s more likely to have Romney’s ear at the GOP convention and beyond.

“The contrast with Governor Romney will get wider and wider and clearer and clearer in the next couple of weeks,” Gingrich told supporters in Nevada on Saturday night after Romney trounced him in that state’s caucuses. And for once, there’s no doubt that he’s right: Mitt Romney is going to continue to pull ahead and draw more support as his front-runner status shifts to that of a presumptive nominee, while Newt Gingrich is going to continue lagging behind, hoping for some improbable stroke of luck that will be enough to make him the winner by default. Gamblers can tie themselves to Gingrich in the hope that he’ll contort himself into a position favorable to them on the whim of a billionaire, or they can support Paul, who actually believes they have a right to play games for money and has a strategic alliance with the presumptive nominee.


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