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WASHINGTON (AP) - Former education secretary and family values advocate William Bennett says he is giving up the high-stakes casino gambling that has cost him millions over the past decade.
"My gambling days are over," Bennett said in a written statement responding to news reports. Bennett, author of the Book of Virtues, issued the brief statement through Empower America, the conservative think tank he runs with former representative Jack Kemp, a New York Republican.
"It is true that I have gambled large sums of money," Bennett said. "I have also complied with all laws on reporting wins and losses."
"Nevertheless, I have done too much gambling, and this is not an example I wish to set," he added.
Attempts to reach Bennett for further comment were unsuccessful.
Internal casino documents show Bennett to be a "preferred customer" in at least four casinos in Atlantic City, N.J., and Las Vegas, according to reports published by Newsweek and The Washington Monthly. He has a revolving line of credit of at least $200,000 at each venue, and video poker and slot machines were his favourite games, the magazines said.
Some casino estimates put his total losses over the last decade above $8 million.
In one two-month period, Bennett wired more than $1.4 million to cover losses at one casino, the documents indicate. In one 18-month stretch, he visited several casinos for two or three days at a time.
Other losses, according to the reports, include $340,000 at Caesars in Atlantic City on July 12, 2002, and more than $500,000 at the Bellagio in Las Vegas on April 5-6.
Bennett, who was education secretary under then-president Ronald Reagan and drug policy director for the first Bush administration, acknowledged his gambling to Newsweek.
"Over 10 years, I'd say I've come out pretty close to even," Bennett said. "You can roll up and down a lot in one day, as we have on many occasions. You may cycle several hundred thousand dollars in an evening and net out only a few thousand."
During an 18-month period, the documents show only a few occasions when Bennett turned in chips, worth about $30,000 or $40,000, at the end of an evening.
"I play fairly high stakes," Bennett said. "I adhere to the law. I don't play the milk money. I don't put my family at risk, and I don't owe anyone anything."
? Copyright 2003 The Canadian Press
From the Calgary Herald (Monday May 5, A3):
William Bennett, the education secretary for former president Ronald Reagan who invented the "Just Say No" anti-drugs campaign and was former president Geroge Bush Sr.'s "drugs czar" has admitted that he is addicted to gambling.