Pubdate: Thu,  8 May 2003
Source: Tribune Review (Pittsburgh, PA)
Copyright: 2003 Tribune-Review Publishing Co.
Author: Dimitri Vassilaros, Tribune-Review
Bookmark: ( William Bennett )


If Bill Bennett is slouching toward Gomorrah, he has a layover in Las

Bennett, the former drug czar and author of "The Book of Virtues," has
lost up to $8 million gambling in the past decade, according to
published reports. He says he does not have a gambling problem. Can
you say "denial"?

Bennett's wife says he gambles only three or four times a year and
that he is not addicted. Can you say "enabler"?

There is one more word to say about the former drug czar who advised
drug users to just say no: hypocrite.

Bennett declined an interview request, but his office at the public
policy organization Empower America in Washington, D.C., offered the
following statement from him:

"A number of stories in the media have reported that I have engaged in
high-stakes gambling over the past decade. It is true that I have
gambled large sums of money. I have complied with all the laws on
reporting wins and losses. Nevertheless, I have done too much
gambling, and this is not an example I wish to set. Therefore, my
gambling days are over."

He also said in the published reports, presumably with a straight
face, that he almost breaks even playing the high-stakes slots.

It sounds as though the Travel Channel has a new topic for yet another
special on Las Vegas.

Bennett might not be able to stop gambling without

"It is not always about money. When you gamble more than you should,
you lose time, money and a sense of value," a spokesman for the
Pittsburgh chapter of Gamblers Anonymous says. "Even if you can afford
to pay what you are losing, it sounds as if it has become too
important. It is hard to lose so much money. It takes work." The
24-hour Gamblers Anonymous hot line: (412) 281-7484.

Even if I habitually used marijuana, but did not play with the milk
money, did not put my family at risk and did not owe anyone anything,
I would be no different than the former drug czar when he gambles --
except I could be arrested, convicted and incarcerated.

"Bill Bennett seems to be saying that if you are rich enough, it's OK
to engage in vices. But for the rest of us, tough luck," says Keith
Stroup, executive director of NORML, a national organization founded
in 1970 to reform marijuana laws.

He agrees with Bennett's victimless crime argument. Still, Stroup
believes Bennett is a hypocrite.

"He talks in several books about the dangers of vices. He speaks as if
they are essentially sinful, yet he justifies his own conduct that
most of us might find offensive."

Except perhaps, the owners of Bennett's favorite slots in

The published reports state that Bennett had not personally moralized
about gambling, but Empower America opposes the extension of casino
gambling in the states.

Virtually every moralizing Republican seems to be strangely quiet
about Bennett's betting. Sen. Rick Santorum, a Penn Hills Republican,
might be expected to have serious concerns about the devastating
effect gambling can have on traditional family values -- much like he
believes gay couples can have.

A spokeswoman from his office declined to comment.

The senator might have been a bit more chatty about this victimless
crime if the high roller had been Bill Clinton.

Conservatives must believe some nonvictims are more equal than
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