John McCain’s Gambling Problem — and Ours?

And Noam Schieber comments today at the New Republic’s The Stump blog on McCain’s visits to the crap tables in Vegas: “A few thousand dollars at a time? Wow. It’s certainly a far cry from the $1-ante games Obama played in Springfield.”

You may have read the Time piece already so here is an excerpt from an earlier Connie Bruck piece in The New Yorker, May 30, 2005:

This is not exactly my area of expertise, though I have been to Vegas three times in the past two years for conventions, during which I played the slots in the casinos for about a half-hour total — while winning two $75 jackpots on the machines at the airport!

Only recently have McCain’s aides urged him to pull back from the pastime. Craps is an absurd game of luck. 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. “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. It is a game of skill. “And he just sort of revels in it.”

A diarist at DailyKos is even probing whether McCain has ever filed the proper federal tax forms for gambling profits and losses. “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. “Craps is addictive,” McCain remarked, and he headed for the fifteen-dollar-minimum-bet tables. “Uh-oh!” he cried, as a player accidentally threw the dice off the table. “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. primary fight last spring, he announced on a visit to the Vegas Strip that he was going to the casino floor.

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. In the past decade, [McCain] has played on Mississippi riverboats, on Indian land, in Caribbean craps pits and along the length of the Las Vegas Strip. In the heat of the G.O.P. “He never, ever plays on the house,” says Mark Salter, a McCain adviser. That’s more than borderline unseemly, I’d say — easily several hundred thousand dollars over a period of 5-10 years if McCain plays regularly. You may have thrilling short term wins but only madmen play craps.”

The surprising Time magazine piece this week about the gambling habits of John McCain (craps) and Barack Obama (poker) continues to reverberate, with McCain’s much more avid and cash-expending pursuit drawing most of the attention. But McCain’s betting formula makes it much more complicated. “This is a very, very superstitious game,” he said. His aides, with alarm bells ringing, refused again, according to two accounts of the discussion.”

It’s not exactly a bolt out of the blue — as long ago as the 2000 campaign, Maureen Dowd was joking about the Bush men staking out the craps tables in Vegas to catch McCain in the act — but still intriguing. McCain is an avid gambler.

I love this quote from Anthony Holden, the well-known British poker-player and writer, from a recent article in the London Telegraph: “We poker players don’t call poker gambling. to midnight. Back in 2005 he joined a group of journalists at a magazine-industry conference in Puerto Rico, offering betting strategy on request.

. The goal, say several people familiar with his habit, is never financial. He loves the thrill of winning and the camaraderie at the table.

But will all this attention now “scare the craps” out of McCain?

This Blogger’s Books and Other Items from…

And here’s an excerpt from the Time story:

The Michael Scherer and Michael Weisskopf article at Time contrasted McCain’s high-stakes and risk-taking gambling with Obama’s cautious, cerebral brand, practically inviting readers to consider how this might play out when one of them is in the Oval Office. At the most obvious level, the game is incredibly simple — players rotate turns throwing the dice, and you either win or lose depending on what number comes up. 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

Leave a Reply