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Ashcroft nomination opposed by gambling industry

26 January 2001

George W. Bush’s decision to nominate John Ashcroft as attorney general has been met with resistance by the gaming industry. Ashcroft, who is anti-drinking, anti-smoking, anti-dancing, has long been an outspoken foe of games of chance and once referred to legalized gambling "a cancer on the soul of the nation." Despite the concern, the attorney general has only limited jurisdiction over the industry. "John is clearly not a friend of gambling," stated Frank Fahrenkopf, head of the American Gaming Association and a former chairman of the Republican National Committee, "but by and large he [would have] very little jurisdiction" over it. Fahrenkopf also commented that Ashcroft had served as Missouri''s attorney general and later as governor when the state had decided to follow through with proposals for a lottery and riverboat casinos. And to his credit, while he opposed legalization, according to Fahrenkopf, Ashcroft never "improperly" used his position to subvert it. Bear Sterns analyst Jason Ader, expressed concern, saying, "He is an influential person and holds many views that should be disturbing to people in the gaming industry…. To have someone say something so strong about an industry that provides so many jobs and tourism benefits is irresponsible. Everybody should be concerned about where he is going with those comments in his new role." Sebastian Sinclair, a gambling law analyst with Christiansen Capital partners, agreed with Fahrenkopf but stated that Ashcroft would still have federal jurisdiction over phone betting and sportsbook expansion. Online gaming would also fall under this category as interpretations of how to apply federal law are currently in dispute. While the nomination will not be voted on until next week, it appears that the industry is watching the proceedings with bated breath.

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