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Casino gambling political donations jump more than 4 times since ’91

LAS VEGAS, Nev. (BP)–Casino gambling interests have more than quadrupled their contributions to the Democratic and Republican parties and to congressional candidates since 1991, according to an analysis reported March 22 in The New York Times.
Casino gambling interests donated $7 million to federal-level campaign coffers in 1995 and 1996, up from the $1.7 million they gave in 1991 and 1992, according to the analysis conducted for The Times by the Campaign Study Group, a research company in Springfield, Va.
Of the total donated since 1991 — $13.7 million — Democrats received $7.6 million while Republicans received $6.1 million, The Times reported.
Specifically to the political parties, $5.7 was given to the Republican Party and $5.2 million to the Democratic Party during the seven-year period.
“The amount of money being poured into the campaign coffers by casino interests serves as clear indication that casino operators are running scared,” said Barrett Duke, director of denominational relations for the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
“They know that there is a mounting public abhorrence of the destructive nature of gambling,” Duke continued. “They are losing regularly when it comes down to a vote by the people. In response to their failures at the voting booth, they are attempting to bypass the people by buying their representatives.
“As the people of this country become more aware of the extent of the political buying spree by the casinos, they will begin to look for representatives who are not for sale,” Duke said. “Until then, we can expect more of the same from big business gambling interests.”
Among individual recipients of donations from casino gambling interests, The Times reported politicians from Nevada and New Jersey, the states with the top casino revenues, received the largest infusion of casino gambling money. Atop the list, with $363,500 in donations, was Rep. John Ensign, R-Nev.
Apart from Nevada and New Jersey politicians, the top individual recipient was Rep. Richard Gephardt, D.-Mo., the House minority leader, at $121,895.
The Times article noted the donations have paid off. When Congress created the National Gambling Impact Study Commission last year, for example, the gambling industry succeeded in having the panel’s subpoena power “significantly narrowed,” The Times reported. Also, the language in the bill was changed “to make the commission’s official mandate less antagonistic toward the industry,” and “casino insiders” were appointed to the nine-member panel, with The Times specifically naming Terrence Lanni, the chief executive of the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas.
“Also,” The Times reported, “a proposal floated by the Clinton Administration in 1994 that would have imposed a 4 percent tax on gambling revenues to help pay for welfare reform was quickly abandoned when casino operators sent their congressional allies to appeal to the White House.”
In lobbying expenditures, The Times reported the American Gaming Association, the industry’s Washington trade group, spent $1.6 million the last two years, ranking as the second-largest spender on gambling lobbying behind the Mississippi band of the Choctaw Indians, which operates a casino near Philadelphia, Miss., and spent $1.8 million.
The Times observed, “So far, there is little evidence that politicians are suffering any significant backlash from voters for taking donations from casinos.”
The gambling donations are about half of the tobacco industry’s total since 1991, the newspaper reported.
James Dobson, another member of the federal commission studying gambling and president of the Focus on the Family evangelical ministry, was quoted by The Times as saying, “Most politicians in both parties are receiving huge donations from gambling interests.” Dobson called the casino donations “an effort to gain access and influence.”
“At the federal level, they just want to be protected,” Tom Grey, executive director of the National Coalition Against Legalized Gambling, told The Times.