Wednesday, May 26, 2010

How many presidential possibilities would dare to take a stance on a casino issue?

Something to keep in mind the next time you read a list of possibile presidential candidates for the Republican Party come 2012 that includes the name of Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels – he is the political person who took on an issue that most elected officials wouldn’t have dared to touch, and he took the stance that could be spun into him supporting cheaters.

Daniels is going to get national news coverage because of a commencement speech he gave during the weekend, and for the fact that he didn’t back away from his comments on Monday.

DANIELS HAS BECOME the governor who supports a gambler who has been banned from a southern Indiana casino after being caught counting cards while playing blackjack. I can’t envision any of Illinois’ chief executives (not even Rod Blagojevich in one of his goofiest moods) being willing to touch this issue.

That gambler was caught back in 2006 at the Grand Victoria Resort and Casino in Rising Sun, Ind., on the Ohio River across from Kentucky and not far from Cincinnati. His act was that he is capable of keeping track of the cards being played in blackjack, making it possible for him to have a strong sense of which cards are likely to come up – which could help him keep his cards under 21.

That gives him a better chance of actually beating the house, which usually has the odds of winning stacked in its favor against the gambler.

Card counting will get you banned from the casinos of Las Vegas, where the courts in Nevada have ruled them to be private property whose owners can restrict certain people from coming. But in New Jersey, a card-counter was able to get the courts to overturn an attempt by the casinos in Atlantic City to ban him.

I GUESS THAT means the Indiana gambler is hoping that the Hoosier State is more like the Garden State than the Silver State.

His case against the Grand Victoria was rejected by a circuit court, but the ban from the Grand Victoria was overturned by an appellate court. That means the Indiana Supreme Court now has the case, and is expected to rule on it some time later this year.

Most political people would have figured there is nothing to gain by saying anything about this. Take the side of the gambler and you are offending a financial interest that many of these small towns that host casinos absolutely depend upon to bolster their local economies.

But who really wants to get that wrapped up in appearing to favor the casino interests – who exist to take money from people in such a flashy and garish manner that they think they’re being entertained by losing.

ALSO, CONSIDERING THAT Daniels was supposed to be providing an inspirational moment to the graduating students of Franklin College, which isn’t anywhere near Rising Sun, I can’t say I comprehend his motivation for bringing up the issue. I don’t buy his “logic” about how this gambler was taking the initiative to “shift the odds” of life in his own direction.

Yet he did, and he came down on the side of the gambler, saying he sees the controversial practice of card counting as evidence that this particular gambler is “inordinately smart.”

The Courier-Journal newspaper of Louisville, Ky., also reported that Daniels described the gambler’s card counting skill as one where, “through hard work learned to improve his chances.”

So Daniels apparently thinks it is good politics to tick off an industry that government has become too dependent on financially for survival. It makes me wonder how sympathetic they’re going to be toward his next re-election bid.

OR, IF DANIELS truly does decide to make a run for president someday, is he going to be the candidate whom the casinos of the country line up against? That’s some significant money that could wind up backing a Daniels opponent – all because he felt the need recently to speak out on this casino issue.

Or is he going to be the guy who stood up for the “rights” of a guy whose intent upon entering the casino in Rising Sun that particular night was to take them for every cent he could get – using a means that wasn’t exactly available to everybody?

Either way, Daniels had the potential to take a stand that was going to be described in less-than-complimentary terms. Which is why he likely would have been better off keeping quiet on this issue.

He’d have had a better chance of reaching concensus among sports fans about whether or not steroid use by ballplayers constitutes “cheating” and whether or not Sammy Sosa deserves the ridicule he now receives in many circles.


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