Sunday, July 6, 2008<

McCain's Gambling Problem

Here goes my attempt at original reporting -

This article in Time from last week talks about both McCain and Obama's gambling proclivities. The bottom line is that McCain is a craps man, while Obama sticks to poker.

This aside caught my attention though:
Aides say McCain tends to play for a few thousand dollars at a time
First of all, that's a lot of money to play at any given time (especially since an ill-timed 7 roll can wipe out all your bets in an instant).

But, more importantly, if McCain is playing for a couple thousand dollars at a time, he must have some substantial gambling winnings and losses over the course of a year. I was curious about exactly how much McCain had won or lost over time so I figured I would check his tax returns to see what kinds of gambling related gains/losses he reported.

Turns out he hasn't reported any - at least for 2006 and 2007 (the tax returns of McCain's that are available on his website).

Gambling gains are supposed to be reported as "Other Income" on line 21 of Form 1040, and McCain has not listed any "Other Income" for 2006 and 2007. It's true that gambling losses can offset gambling gains for tax purposes, but the gains still need to be reported as "Other Income" and the losses to offset it are then reported as itemized deductions on Schedule A.

It's possible that McCain didn't gamble at all in 2006 or 2007 and therefore wouldn't have any gambling gains/losses to report - in fact, I would guess that he probably didn't in 2007 since he was immersed in the presidential campaign. But I would be surprised if he didn't play at least a little dice in 2006 (the article states that he played in 2005). The sense the article gives is that McCain likes him some craps, and I find it hard to believe he hasn't played at all in the last two years. Take this anecdote for example:
In the heat of the G.O.P. primary fight last spring, he announced on a visit to the Vegas Strip that he was going to the casino floor.
That's about as far as I can take it, but it would be great if a real reporter could ask the McCain campaign a couple things:

1) Did McCain gamble at all in 2006 or 2007?
1a) If yes, why did he not report his gambling-related income on his tax returns?
2) It's known that McCain gambled in 2005 - was his gambling-related income properly reported for that year? What about for previous years?

Just to anticipate some objections:
a) Yes this is a relatively trivial issue, but it's a slow news week. So the easiest thing to do would just be to get this out in the open and clear the air. Plus, this story certainly is as important (if not more) than the Barack Obama birth certificate "controversy."
b) Yes any failure to report was likely an oversight rather than an attempt to avoid taxes. But unfortunately the IRS doesn't recognize oversight as a legitimate excuse for failing to report income.
c) Yes the article discusses Barack Obama playing poker and he didn't appear to have reported any gambling-related income (though I didn't check thoroughly). But clearly there is a difference in kind between a "$1 ante and $3 top raise" poker game (where I imagine on a good night, Obama might have maybe walked away with $50) and playing craps for several thousand dollars at a time.

P.S. If this becomes a big story, remember you read it here first.

UPDATE: This photo (if the June 3, 2006 date accompanying the story is correct) would seem to indicate that McCain did gamble in 2006.

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At August 2, 2008 at 3:45 AM , Blogger NG said...

Interesting! Was there any followup on this? If not, I think you should write an article. I bet you could get it published in Slate.


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