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Betting on the next US President

8 November 2000

While the Florida recount takes place, it’s certain that many Americans are considering if they voted for the best man for the job. And this is certainly the case in the US gaming industry. Despite rumors that Texas Gov. George W. Bush is “anti-gaming”, through Oct. 1, Nevada gaming executives gave more than three times as much in presidential campaign contributions to Bush (US $118,200) than to Vice President Al Gore (US $36,000). In a political paradox, most gaming executives favor Bush, although Gore is thought to be more friendly to the industry. Bush''s donors included some of the most powerful names in the Nevada gaming industry, including Mandalay Resort Group Chairman and Chief Executive Michael Ensign, MGM MIRAGE Chairman Terry Lanni, International Game Technology Chairman and CEO Charles Mathewson and Desert Inn owner Steve Wynn. Bush earned his “anti-gaming” reputation when, as governor, he fought against casino-style gambling and a lottery in Texas. However, Sig Rogich, finance chairman for Bush''s Nevada campaign, explains, "He''s not anti-gaming, he just doesn''t think it should be on every street corner in America. He did not want it in Texas ... but instead told everyone the place they should go to enjoy it would be Las Vegas." Rogich contends that the argument that Bush is anti-gaming is "just last-minute nonsense." If Bush wins, the question remains as to which Bush belief is stronger: his personal opposition to gaming in Texas or his belief that states have the right to set their own course without government intervention. "To allow casino-style gambling to continue and spread in places where children play not only offends Texans who have not approved casino-style gambling in our state, but it also sends a terrible message to our children that gambling is OK," Bush has publicly stated. "Casino gambling is not OK. It has ruined the lives of too many adults, and it can do the same thing to our children." Former Nevada Gov. Bob Miller, honorary chairman of Gore''s campaign in Nevada, believes the casino executives backing Bush are making a grave error. Miller said. "We should be mindful that what he''s saying in Texas ... is likely to be more reflective of his position on gaming than what he''s said in Nevada." According to Shannon Bybee, executive director of UNLV''s International Gaming Institute, gaming executives were hoping that by contributing to his campaign, they would gain Bush’s sympathy. "They like his other politics generally. They see him as being more pro-business, and better for the economy in general….By giving him money, they hope he will act favorably on gaming matters. They prefer him politically, and hope by supporting him, he will not be openly antagonistic." Frank Fahrenkopf, chief executive of the American Gaming Association, says that the AGA is officially neutral on the presidential race: "Both of them (Bush and Gore) fundamentally start from the proposition that the nature and scope of gambling in a particular state is up to the people of that state. “ One gaming issue on which the new president may be asked to decide early is the NCAA-backed bill that seeks to ban betting on college sports. Gore has hinted he would veto it, but Bush has taken no position. As the count continues, all bets are on to see which candidate will finally be declared the new President of the United States.

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