John McCain's a gambler; Sarah Palin proved that. But just how much does he like to gamble? And how closely is he tied to the casino industry?
Senator John McCain was on a roll. In a room reserved for high-stakes gamblers at the Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut, he tossed $100 chips around a hot craps table. When the marathon session ended around 2:30 a.m., the Arizona senator and his entourage emerged with thousands of dollars in winnings.
A lifelong gambler, Mr. McCain takes risks, both on and off the craps table. He was throwing dice that night not long after his failed 2000 presidential bid, in which he was skewered by the GOP's evangelical base, opponents of gambling. Mr. McCain was betting at a casino he oversaw as a member of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, and he was doing so with the lobbyist who represents that casino, according to three associates of Mr. McCain.
The visit had been arranged by the lobbyist, Scott Reed, who works for the Mashantucket Pequot, a tribe that has contributed heavily to Mr. McCain's campaigns and built Foxwoods into the world's second-largest casino. Joining them was Rick Davis, Mr. McCain's current campaign manager. Their night of good fortune epitomized not just Mr. McCain's affection for gambling, but also the close relationship he has built with the gambling industry and its lobbyists during his 25-year career in Congress.
He is one of the "founding fathers of Indian gaming," says Steven Light, a University of North Dakota professor and Indian gambling expert.
... On Monday, the bad news spread quickly from Wall Street to the Las Vegas Strip:
"Shares of casino operators tumbled Monday - several to new multiyear lows - as jittery investors watched Wall Street and global markets slide on fears the financial crisis is spreading. The markets have realized that the $700 billion rescue plan won't work quickly to unfreeze the credit markets and that many banks are still having difficulty gaining access to cash. That's caused investors to exit stocks and move money into the relative safety of government debt ... MGM Mirage's stock fell $3.50, or 16.6 percent, to $17.50 in afternoon trading. It hit a nearly five-year low of $17.28 earlier the session ... Other stocks hitting fresh lows included Las Vegas Sands Corp., which slipped to an all-time low of $19.10, and Wynn Resorts Ltd., which sagged to a more than two-year low of $62, before making back some losses."
... More bad news:
"The MGM Grand Detroit says it's laying off some restaurant and bar employees at its casino, hotel and entertainment complex. The Detroit News and the Detroit Free Press report Saturday that the casino is laying off less than 100 workers. Another round of less than 100 layoffs by the casino had been made earlier this year."
Dispatches from the east
Phialdelphia's would-be Foxwoods casino has agreed to move away from the waterfront, perhaps closer to Chinatown. Predicatbly, Chinatown isn't thrilled about this development: "The casino now planned for the Gallery will poison Chinese minds and rob their souls."
... Should casino workers be eligible for elected office? In Atlantic City, being a dealer, a bouncer, a waitress or middle management means you can't run for city council:
"To safeguard against corruption in local government, one of the regulations that state lawmakers adopted in 1977 barred casino workers from holding local elected office. But in the 30 years since casino gambling was legalized here, three mayors have left office under clouds of suspicion and dozens of city councilmen have been indicted in corruption scandals. Not one worked for a casino. Now some state legislators say they are ready to allow casino workers to run for mayor and City Council in Atlantic City. The state Assembly voted 66-11 last week to approve a bill to allow casino workers who live in Atlantic City to hold municipal office there."
The casino workers would still be barred from running for state office, however.
Dispatches from the south
Maryland hopes that legalizing slots would prevent Maryland gambling dollars from crossing the border to Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Delaware and New Jersey. But will it?
"Three of the locations proposed in the slot machine gambling proposal on the November ballot -- in Allegany, Cecil and Worcester counties -- were chosen in part to attract Marylanders who now go to West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey to take their chances. But the plush new Inn at Charles Town, where from their rooms guests can watch thoroughbreds race and can hop a free shuttle to the slots floor, shows that the competition is prepared to fight back," reports The Washington Post.
Odds and ends
More evidence that casinos aren't recession-proof (or is that Depression proof?) ... Atlantic City's smoking ban may be delayed ... Penn National Gaming warns of a rough third quarter ... An update on the push for (and against) casinos in Ohio ... Polls show that the voting public supports the Ohio casino initiative ... Homestead (Pa.) police receive a grant to shut down those back-room poker machines, which are illegal.