Another President Bush: Jeb Hates Gambling (Sometimes)

Written by:
Thomas Somach
Published on:
Jeb Bush

Bush for President?

No, not that one.

He served two terms and can't serve any more.

And not his father either, who served one term and then was kicked out of office by the voters.

The Bush who's generating some political buzz on the presidential front these days is none other than the "other" Bush--Jeb Bush--who served as governor of Florida from 1998-2006 and is the 43rd President's older brother and the 41st President's son.

Although he's repeatedly denied any interest in running for President this time around, the Republican electorate are highly disenchanted with the current field of G.O.P. presidential contenders and are constantly asking others to jump in to the race, including Jeb Bush, whose real name is John Ellis Bush (JEB is his initials and nickname).

If he were to jump in to the Republican presidential race and if he were elected--two big ifs but not out of the realm of possibility--would President Jeb Bush be a friend or foe of gambling?

As part of its continuing series on the current and potential 2012 Presidential contenders and their stances on gambling issues, Gambling911.com examined Jeb Bush's record on the subject and found out that as Florida governor, he repeatedly spoke out against gambling expansion in his state, but nevertheless at times allowed it.

He famously declared during his first of two consecutive four-year terms in office:"I'm not for video lotteries, slots, casinos or for the expansion of gambling."

But did he live up to that promise?

Here's what our investigation uncovered:

In 1999, Bush revoked the leases for all gambling cruise operations in the state.

The gambling cruise ships--known as "cruises to nowhere"--would go out three miles into international waters, where Florida law didn't apply, and then offer casino games and sports betting.

By issuing Florida's first ever "no gambling" leases on underwater state land, he effectively shut down Florida's 17 gambling cruise ships by prohibiting them from docking in state waters when they weren't operating in international waters.

(The move didn't stand--the gambling cruise lines challenged the edict in court and in 2001 a judge negated it, allowing the lines to return to operation.)

Also in 1999, Bush declined an offer for Florida to join the multi-state mega-lottery Powerball, which offered lottery jackpots much larger than any individual state lottery did.

But during his two-term tenure as governor he permitted the Florida Lotto, one of the state's lottery games, to increase from one drawing a week to two.

He also allowed a Fantasy 5 lottery game drawing every night, added two weekly Megaball drawings and allowed nightly Play 4 and Cash 3 lottery games.

As for the Florida Lottery's instant scratch-off tickets, the number of different kinds available zoomed to 61 under Bush's watch, including some costing as much as $20 apiece.

(In 2009, under Bush's successor, Governor Charlie Crist, Florida did join Powerball.)

In 2002, the state legislature passed a bill increasing the limits and extending the hours at state poker rooms.

Bush vetoed the bill, saying he didn't oppose the limit increases but did have a problem with expanding the hours of operation.

In 2003 the state legislature approved an updated version of the bill which increased the limits but not the hours and Bush allowed it to become law.

The law eliminated a $10-per-game pot limit at racetrack poker rooms, replacing it with a $2 bet limit and a maximum of three raises per round, with unlimited rounds.

In 2004, the state legislature passed a bill legalizing instant bingo and sent it to Bush to sign into law.

Instant bingo tickets, similar to instant lottery tickets, are pull-tab tickets.

Instead of scratching off a film to reveal numbers to see if they are winners, buyers pull off a cardboard cover or pull-tab
to reveal numbers that they then match with numbers on a bingo card to see if and what they win.

Unlike the state lottery, however, which is run by the state government, instant bingo tickets could be offered by private organizations such as charities and VFW clubs.

Bush vetoed the bill.

(In 2007, Crist signed instant bingo into law.)

In 2006, Bush signed legislation allowing four state racetracks to install slot machines.

Also in 2006, as required under Federal law, Bush negotiated with state Indian tribes that ran tribal casinos on Indian land and wanted to expand their gambling offerings.

The tribes, which only offered poker, bingo and slot machine-like devices, wanted to add blackjack, backgammon and full slot machines, but couldn't reach a deal with Bush.

(The tribes eventually got what they wanted once Crist got into office.)

So there it is.

On one hand, Bush loudly and often declared his opposition to expanding gambling in the state.

But on the other (greasier) hand, during his tenure as governor he allowed expansion of plenty of gambling in the state, including poker, slot machines and state lottery games.

Just another hypocritical pol who says one thing and does another?

Yes, but beware--he has a famous last name, and we've seen before how that and little else can get you to the White House.

By Tom Somach

Gambling911.com Staff Writer


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