Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Doubts about Clinton's Gambling Panel Picks Study of Industry's Impact May Be Biased, Say Critics

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Doubts about Clinton's Gambling Panel Picks Study of Industry's Impact May Be Biased, Say Critics

Article excerpt

Anti-casino organizers are complaining that President Clinton is trying to stack the deck in a new federal commission to study the impact of legalized gambling.

Although Mr. Clinton has yet to name his three selections to the two-year study panel, industry sources and press reports indicate the president is leaning toward appointing pro-gambling officials from Las Vegas and Atlantic City, as well as a representative of native American gambling interests.

The president's selections would bring to five the number of pro-gambling commissioners on the nine-member panel. Opponents charge that the president's appointments would amount to payback to the gaming industry for campaign contributions. Gambling industry officials counter that their opponents are exaggerating their influence. Gambling firms are not among the nation's biggest political contributors, but the industry gave more than $2.5 million to the Democratic Party during the past election, according to an analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics in Washington. The issue arises at a time when the White House is already under a media microscope for allegedly soliciting campaign contributions in exchange for access to the president. In addition, the Justice Department and a Senate committee are investigating fund-raising activities at the Democratic National Committee and the White House. Gambling opponents say the expected Clinton appointments are an example of how political contributions can directly influence the conduct of government. "It is a quid pro quo," says Tom Grey, executive director of the National Coalition Against Legalized Gambling (NCALG) in Washington. The National Gambling Impact and Policy Commission was established by Congress last year despite heavy opposition lobbying by the gaming industry. Its mandate is to explore the social and economic impacts of all forms of legalized gambling in the United States. Congress acted on the issue as a result of the explosive growth in casinos and other forms of gambling nationwide since the late 1980s. Casino gambling revenues alone have doubled since 1990, topping $25 billion. The industry now employs some 1 million people. Mr. Grey and other anti-gambling organizers charge that the gaming industry is seeking to undermine the effectiveness of the commission, having failed last year to block the creation of the panel in Congress. "They are trying to stack the deck," Grey says. "Their top priority is to weaken the new federal gambling commission's study by filling the commission with gambling advocates." A White House spokesperson declined to comment on whether the gaming industry had purchased access and influence from the president. The president is expected to name his selections to the commission "soon," the spokesperson said. …

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