William Bennett, moral crusader and author of The Book of Virtues, is a late-night customer in Nevada and New Jersey casinos, where he has lost more than $8 million in the last decade, according to news reports.
Washington Monthly and Newsweek reported over the weekend that Bennett was a “preferred customer” at casinos in <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />Las Vegas and Atlantic City. He had a line of credit of at least $200,000 at several gambling establishments.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” />
The casinos also provided Bennett with limo service and tens of thousands of dollars in free hotel rooms and amenities.
Internal casino documents showed that Bennett wired more than $1.4 million to a casino to cover losses during one two-month period.
In early April 2003, Bennett lost more than $500,000 at the Bellagio in Las Vegas, the two online publications reported.
One source told Washington Monthly that Bennett “prefers the high-limit room, where he’s less likely to be seen and where he can play the $500-a-pull slots. He usually plays very late at night or early in the morning—usually between midnight and 6 a.m.”
Evidence of Bennett’s efforts to hide his gambling also appeared in his customer profile, which listed his home address as that of Empower.org, the Web site of Empower America, an advocacy group Bennett chairs with former Republican presidential candidate Jack Kemp.
“The fact that one of America’s leading moralists would sneak around and engage in one of the nation’s most destructive vices undermines his credibility,” said Robert Parham, executive director of the Baptist Center for Ethics. “Protestants and conservative evangelicals, who overwhelmingly see gambling as a moral issue, will say that Bennett betrayed the very moral habits about which he wrote in The Book of Virtues.”
Following service in both the Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush presidential administrations in various capacities, Bennett became nationally known and wealthy as a cultural critic of America’s permissive morality and family breakdown, collecting $50,000 speaking fees.
While he relentlessly attacked liberals as morally inferior to conservatives, he also rebuked the American public in The Death of Outrage for not overwhelmingly condemning President Clinton’s adulterous relationship.
A hero of the religious right, Bennett has appeared frequently on their programs.
Richard Land, head of the Southern Baptist Convention’s public policy agency, told religion writers, “I’ve got more in common with William Bennett, a serious Roman Catholic, than with Al Gore, a fairly serious Southern Baptist.”
Land’s agency Web site promotes and sells Bennett’s books. Broadman & Holman, an SBC publisher, co-published Bennett’s book Our Sacred Honor.
Bennett’s gambling received limited attention in the late 1990s when the Washington Times reported that he played poker with two Supreme Court Justices, Antonin Scalia and William Rehnquist, as well as conservative judge Robert Bork.
Bennett told Newsweek that he would not discuss his gambling wins and losses. “You can roll up and down a lot in one day, as we have on many occasions,” he said. “You may cycle several hundred thousand dollars in an evening and net out only a few thousand.”