John McCain’s 14 Hour Impulsive Casino Craps Play

Written by:
C Costigan
Published on:
John McCain Playing Craps

The Huffington Post on Monday featured an article on US Republican Presidential candidate John McCain and what they allege is an "impulsive" obsession with casino craps.McCain is a documented craps player. He has been known to play craps on impulse for 14 hours at a stretch.

Of the game of craps, Anthony Holden comments, "We poker players don't call poker gambling. It is a game of skill. Craps is an absurd game of luck. You may have thrilling short term wins but only madmen play craps."

Matthew Yglesias notes, "The McCains own eleven houses and spent over $200,000 on 'household staff' in 2007 so I suppose he can afford tens of thousands of dollars in gambling losses every year. At the same time, you wouldn't want someone to enjoy 'playing against the odds' with the country's public policy. The fact that McCain seems to think there's some kind of 'betting strategy' that can turn craps into a winning game also raises some questions about his math."

McCain is not necessarily against legalized online gambling despite voting in favor of regulation to ban most forms in October 2006 (with the notable exception of horse racing).

In an interview with Erin Neff of the Las Vegas Review Journal, John McCain, made it clear that an all out ban on Internet gambling is a very low priority for his future administration.

"The economy is what's hurting the gaming industry in Las Vegas today," McCain said. "It isn't sports betting or Internet gaming." On Internet gaming, McCain was just off his game, according to Neff. First he tried to back away from his position because he hasn't been involved in it lately. Then he said it was really fellow Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl's deal. Kyl was a co-author of recently past Internet gambling prohibition - the Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act - and has been among the industry's most aggressive foes over the past decade. "I haven't thought about the issue," McCain said when pressed further by the Vegas-based reporter.

Fellow Republican Ron Paul does not gamble yet he has been among the most outspoken when it comes to legalizing online gambling.

"One of the basic principles, a basic reason why I strongly oppose this is (the law to ban online gambling), I see this as a regulation of the Internet, which is a very, very dangerous precedent to set," Paul said before a House Subcommittee on the subject.

"To start with, I can see some things that are much more dangerous than gambling. I happen to personally strongly oppose gambling. I think it is pretty stupid, to tell you the truth.

"But what about political ideas? What about religious fanaticism? Are we going to get rid of those? I can think of 1,000 things worse coming from those bad ideas. But who will come down here and say, Just think of the evil of these bad ideas and distorted
religions, and therefore we have to regulate the Internet?"

Many see regulation of online gambling as a way for the US to bring in millions of dollars to the sagging economy. Internet gambling after all is a billion dollar industry.

But to be fair, John McCain is not the only known "gambler" on the ticket. Senator Barack Obama, his Democratic opponent, is a known poker player who has simply said he would welcome a study of the online gambling industry and its possible regulation. But just last week, Obama was endorsed by the co-author of the very legislation that made online poker, casino games and - yes - craps, illegal, Jim Leach. He was the former Congressman out of Iowa who just happens to be a Republican.

Would McCain Gamble With Lives?

The Huffington Post piece, written by Stephen S. Rose, might go a little bit overboard comparing John McCain's gambling impulses with that of real life scenarios such as wars.

How serious is the gambling urge for McCain? What does the love of craps say about his "realism" regarding actual battles and conflicts? Would McCain be willing to gamble with human lives?

Connie Bruck of the New Yorker puts it like this in explaining how compulsive McCain could be about craps:

The moment the car stopped at McCain's hotel in downtown New Orleans, he set out at his usual fast clip for Harrah's, across the street. McCain is an avid gambler. Wes Gullett, a close friend who worked for McCain for years, told me that they used to play craps in Las Vegas in fourteen-hour stints, standing at the tables from 10 a.m. to midnight. 'Craps is addictive,' McCain remarked, and he headed for the fifteen-dollar-minimum-bet tables.

Michael Scherer and Michael Weisskopf of the London Times write:"Over time he (McCain) gave up the drinking bouts, but he never quite kicked the periodic yen for dice. In the past decade, he has played on Mississippi riverboats, on Indian land, in Caribbean craps pits and along the length of the Las Vegas Strip. Back in 2005 he joined a group of journalists at a magazine-industry conference in Puerto Rico, offering betting strategy on request. 'Enjoying craps opens up a window on a central thread constant in John's life,' says John Weaver, McCain's former chief strategist, who followed him to many a casino. 'Taking a chance, playing against the odds.' Aides say McCain tends to play for a few thousand dollars at a time and avoids taking markers, or loans, from the casinos, which he has helped regulate in Congress. 'He never, ever plays on the house,' says Mark Salter, a McCain adviser. The goal, say several people familiar with his habit, is never financial. He loves the thrill of winning and the camaraderie at the table.

"Only recently have McCain's aides urged him to pull back from the pastime. In the heat of the G.O.P. primary fight last spring, he announced on a visit to the Vegas Strip that he was going to the casino floor. When his aides stopped him, fearing a public relations disaster, McCain suggested that they ask the casino to take a craps table to a private room, a high-roller privilege McCain had indulged in before. His aides, with alarm bells ringing, refused again, according to two accounts of the discussion.

"He clearly knows that this is on the borderline of what is acceptable for him to be doing," says a Republican who has watched McCain play. 'And he just sort of revels in it.'"

For the online gambling sector and particularly online poker with an association that is one million strong and counting, there is a yearning for more support from these supposed "gambling loving" Presidential candidates.  Neither seems particularly supportive to the cause. 


Christopher Costigan, Gambling911.com Publisher

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