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Gambling and Political Corruption
Gambling "has more of a history of corruption than any other industry," former Illinois Senator Paul Simon testified at the opening meeting of the National Gambling Impact Study Commission in June 1997. Indeed, Simon's statement has abundant basis in fact. Gambling-related political corruption became so widespread in the 1800s that every state in the union eventually outlawed lotteries and all other forms of gambling. Today, history appears to be repeating itself. The recent wave of gambling expansion in the United States has spawned another epidemic of political corruption.
- Two former West Virginia Senate Presidents were sentenced to prison for taking money from gambling interests. One was charged with soliciting $15,000 from a casino company to help pass a bill that would have allowed casinos in the state. The other was convicted for accepting an illegal $10,000 payment from gambling interests.
- Nineteen Arizona legislators and lobbyists were caught on videotape taking money after agreeing to vote for legalized gambling. Six lawmakers eventually accepted plea bargains; another was convicted of conspiracy for taking $25,000 from an undercover agent.
- Three Hilton Hotels executives — one a board member — resigned in the wake of an investigation regarding the corporation's attempts to obtain a riverboat license in Kansas City, Missouri. Hilton allegedly paid $250,000 to a business headed by the former chairman of the Kansas City Port Authority, whose approval Hilton needed to lease city property for the casino. The former chairman later cast the deciding vote awarding Hilton the lease.
- Missouri's House Speaker of 15 years resigned in 1996 in the wake of a federal investigation induced by charges of gambling-related dealings. According to media reports, the ex-speaker demanded that a gambling company direct payments of $16 million toward the ex-speaker's friends and business associates in order to secure a casino license in the state.
- In Kentucky, 15 state legislators were eventually convicted or pled guilty to charges stemming from Operation Boptrot, an FBI investigation centering on influence peddling and bribery involving the state's horse racing industry.
- The FBI launched a two-year investigation into the activities of more than a dozen Louisiana legislators suspected of accepting bribes from gambling interests. One former state senator, who chaired the senate committee overseeing gambling matters, has been convicted of racketeering-related charges in the investigation. A representative who sat on a similar committee in the Louisiana House resigned after admitting to using his influence to help two organized-crime-controlled video poker companies in exchange for gifts.
- Seventeen South Carolina lawmakers were convicted of or pled guilty to charges related to a federal sting operation labeled "Operation Lost Trust." The investigation centered around allegations that legislators accepted gambling money in exchange for pro-gambling votes on horse racing legislation.
- In 1997, the former chairman of the Indiana House Ways and Means Committee was indicted on charges of bribery, perjury and filing false finance reports. The charges stemmed from allegations that the former chairman took bribes from the lead engineering firm in a riverboat casino project in the state.
- Four of Atlantic City's last seven mayors have been found guilty of or pleaded guilty to corruption charges.
1 A.V. Gallagher, Associated Press, "Former W. Va. Senate President Sentenced to 5 Years, Fined $10,000," December 14, 1989.
2 Sally Ann Stewart, "New Tarnish on Arizona's Image; Bribe Case Has State 'in Shock,' USA Today, February 13, 1991, p. 6A.
3 John Pacenti, "Walker Found Guilty of Conspiracy in AzScam," Associated Press, November 5, 1992.
4 Bruce Orwall, "Hilton Officials Resign Amid Focus on Missouri Casino," Wall Street Journal, October 14, 1996, p. B7.
5 Joe Stephens, "Powerbrokers Await Windup of Grand Jury," Kansas City Star, October 11, 1996, p. A1.
6 Bill Estep, "BOPTROT Leaves Legacy of Ethics Rules," Lexington Herald-Leader, August 2, 1995, p. A1.
7 Jim Yardley, "Don't Bet on Gambling; Louisiana Bribery Suspected," Atlanta Journal and Constitution, September 5, 1995, p. 4B.
8 Joe Gyan, Jr., "Bankston Convicted on 2 Counts; Rayburn Acquitted," Baton Rouge Advocate, June 28, 1997, p. 1A.
9 Joe Gyan, Jr., "Guzzardo Quits After Guilty Plea," Baton Rouge Advocate , May 2, 1996, p. 1A.
10 Associated Press, "Former State Representative Sentenced to Prison for Selling Votes," April 24, 1992.
11 Thomas P. Wyman and Beth Menge, "Bribery in Casino Contract Charged," Cincinnati Enquirer , April 29, 1997, p. B1.
12 Jerry Gray, "Sharpe James Wins a Third Term as Mayor of Newark," New York Times, May 11, 1994, p. B7.