Newsbrief: Bill "Mr. Virtue" Bennett Outed as Heavy Gambler 5/9/03

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William Bennett

Former drug czar and professional moralist Bill Bennett's gambling jones has cost him $8 million, according to the Washington Monthly. According to the magazine, "over the last decade Bennett has made dozens of trips to casinos in Atlantic City and Las Vegas, where he is a 'preferred customer' at several of them, and sources and documents provided to The Washington Monthly put his total losses at more than $8 million."

According to a report in Newsweek that relied on much the same reporting, more than 40 pages of internal casino documents show that Bennett, author of the "Book of Virtue," received treatment befitting a high-roller, including limousine rides, "tens of thousands of dollars in complimentary hotel rooms and other amenities." As well he should: In one two-month period, Bennett wired more than $1.4 million to one casino to cover his losses.

Bennett told the magazines he had broken even at gambling, adding "you don't see what I walk away with."

Gambling is a legal activity, and no one is suggesting that Bennett has committed any crime, but the exposure of Mr. Virtue's vice makes his constant -- and well-paid -- harangues against the vices, sins and moral failures of modern culture ring just a bit hollow. It also threatens his stature among social conservatives, many of whom consider gambling a moral issue, or in the words of former Christian Coalition head Ralph Reed, "a cancer on the American body politic" that was "stealing food from the mouths of children."

Bennett has denied having a gambling problem, and likened it to drinking alcohol (although not smoking marijuana). "I view it as drinking," he said. "If you can't handle it, don't do it."

That was last week. On Monday, Bennett released a statement seeking to appease a growing chorus of critics from conservative groups. "My gambling days are over," he said. "It is true that I have gambled large sums of money," Bennett said in his statement. "I have also complied with all laws on reporting wins and losses. Nevertheless, I have done too much gambling, and this is not an example I wish to set."

Ah, sweet schadenfreude.

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Issue #286, 5/9/03 Editorial: Time for Bill Bennett to Sit Down | DRCNet Interview: Senator Pierre Claude Nolin, Chairman, Canadian Senate Select Committee on Illegal Drugs | Canada Supreme Court Hears Arguments in Cases that Could End Marijuana Laws | Colombia: Pro-Legalization Governor among FARC Hostages Killed in Failed Monday Rescue Attempt | Bolivia Coca Conflict Heating Up Again | Oregon SWAT Raid Victims to File Suit | Tens of Thousands March Worldwide in Annual Million Marijuana March | Newsbrief: Bill "Mr. Virtue" Bennett Outed as Heavy Gambler | Newsbrief: Bush Twins Outed as Tokers by "That '70s Show" Star | Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cop Story | Newsbrief: Baltimore Grand Jury Calls for Regulated Drug Distribution to Addicts | Newsbrief: Sentencing Reform Measures Moving in Colorado | Newsbrief: Rhode Island Bill Allowing Eviction for Drug Possession on the Move | Newsbrief: Minnesota High Court Bars Suspicionless Consent Searches, Questioning of Motorists | The Reformer's Calendar

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