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Bennett Considering Lawsuits Against Casinos

29 July 2003

Morals czar William Bennett is considering filing lawsuits against Las Vegas casino companies that may have leaked documents detailing his gambling habits.

Bennett, the architect and leading advocate of Nancy Reagan's "Just Say No" anti-drug campaign, was outed in the May issue of The Washington Monthly magazine as a gambler who has wagered -- and lost -- millions over the past decade at Bellagio and Caesars Atlantic City.

During a 60-minute interview with Tim Russert on CNCB this weekend, the former education secretary complained his privacy rights had been "deliberately damaged" while also mocking Las Vegas' latest national marketing campaigns.

"By the way, there's a commercial on that people may have seen about Las Vegas, that 'What happens here stays here.' Well, not in my case. Some people there were trying to do me great harm," Bennett said.

The "What happens here" ad campaign is part of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority's latest marketing campaign to boost tourism to the city.

He argued the magazine report stemmed from the release of "some documents" by the casinos themselves which was not legal and violated his privacy rights.

He alleges documents were selectively leaked to create a false impression that he had a gaming problem.

While Bennett did not dispute the legitimacy of the documents and said he had no problem with the reporters who have written stories on his gambling, he told Russert the release of the information was not legal and he is looking into the possibility of legal action against the casinos.

On Monday, Bennett declined to comment further on the possibility of legal action against the casino companies.

Spokesmen for Park Place Entertainment Corp. , owner of the Caesars Atlantic City, and MGM Mirage, which operates Bellagio, declined comment.

Industry insiders have said details in The Washington Monthly article suggest the data about Bennett's gambling habits might actually have come from documents produced by Central Credit, a subsidiary of First Data Corp. of Greenwood Village, Colo.

Central Credit, which has denied being a source of the documents, is the gaming industry equivalent of credit reporting agency TRW. It allows member casinos to run credit checks on debts, marker activity and repayment habits of casino customers.

Industry experts and civil liberties attorneys doubt Bennett has a cause of action.

Las Vegas professor and casino gambling expert Bill Thompson said Bennett's privacy rights "were violated. I think he has a beef, but I don't know if he has a legal argument."

Allen Lichtenstein, general counsel for the Nevada chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said "It might be good policy, but in the absence of some policy or contract, it does not appear there is a cause of action," he said.

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