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April 19, 2014

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Campaign:

The best bet

McCain or Obama—who’s better for our state’s biggest industry?

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Photo Illustration by Ryan Olbrysh

By now you’ve probably heard so much about how John McCain and Barack Obama will restore our faith in government and have seen enough hit pieces calling bullshit on the other guy’s promises that it’s hard to tell fact from spin. Did Obama really support sex-education for kindergartners? Does McCain really plan on tax breaks for the wealthy? It’s enough to make you want to vote independent. Or move to Canada.

Since ours is a battleground state, and our economy relies on tourism and gaming, we thought it was time to see whose greased palm we might want picking up the phone when our gaming leaders call needing a favor (or three).

We hear McCain and Obama both enjoy playing poker, so that’s a start.

Score: McCain, 1; Obama, 1.

Both also like gaming contributions. The industry prefers McCain almost two to one, giving him $260,025 through the end of August to $132,633 for Obama, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. McCain also enjoys the advantage of adoring casino moguls. Wynn Resorts chief Steve Wynn, Las Vegas Sands Corp. CEO Sheldon Adelson and MGM Mirage chairman Terry Lanni are on his fundraising team.

Score: McCain, 5; Obama, 1.

In the time leading up to the January 19 Democratic presidential caucus, Hillary Clinton’s camp used Obama’s own words to paint him as anti-gaming. Obama told a newspaper in 2003 that gambling in general exacted a “moral and social cost” that could “devastate” poor communities. Casino expansion is our bread and butter. New casinos equal new jobs. But Obama’s penchant for frustratingly nuanced answers actually helps him. As an Illinois state senator, he avoided a decisive position on gambling expansion. Furthermore, he has said that gambling does work well in Nevada.

Score: McCain, 5; Obama, 2.

McCain’s 2000 presidential bid included a call to ban college-sports betting. The gaming industry spent $10 million to defeat it. American Gaming Association President Frank Fahrenkopf said in February that McCain, a close friend, probably won’t revisit the issue if elected. Let’s hope so. College-sports betting constituted nearly a third of the $2.4 billion wagered in Nevada sports books last year. As late as 2005, McCain was still working on legislation to ban it. Is the gaming industry willing to bet a President McCain won’t backtrack on the warpath? Should it take that chance?

Score: McCain, 5; Obama, 5 1/2.

So there you have it, folks. Obama inches McCain by a nose, mainly because he—and this is a common criticism—doesn’t have a record on the issue.

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