WASHINGTON, May 5 — William Bennett, author of “The Book of Virtues” and other books on morality, said Monday that he was quitting gambling amid media reports that he lost $8 million in the last decade playing slot machines and video poker.

“IT IS TRUE that I have gambled large sums of money,” Bennett said in a statement. “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. Therefore my gambling days are over.”
Praised by admirers as a cogent moral voice and vilified by critics as a sanctimonious national scold, Bennett has been a public fixture in Washington since the Reagan era and a perennial television presence when morality is the topic. There was a bit of media chortling after the story broke, with Slate.com and Washington Post columnist Michael Kinsley acknowledging that Bennett’s predicament provoked unusual levels of schadenfreude, or joy in the misfortune of others.

“Sinners have long cherished the fantasy that William Bennett, the virtue magnate, might be among our number,” Kinsley wrote. “The news over the weekend — that Bennett’s $50,000 sermons and best-selling moral instruction manuals have financed a multimillion-dollar gambling habit — has lit a lamp of happiness in even the darkest of hearts.” Newsweek magazine and the Washington Monthly, the first to report the story, used Bennett’s own words to begin their accounts of Bennett’s gambling.

“We should know that too much of anything, even a good thing, may prove to be our undoing. ... [We] need to set definite boundaries on our appetites,” both stories wrote, citing Bennett in “The Book of Virtues.”

Both then went on to report Bennett’s high-rolling tendencies at the Bellagio in Las Vegas and Caesars in Atlantic City, N.J., saying he was a “preferred customer” at at least four casinos, with a revolving line of credit of at least $200,000 at each. Citing internal casino documents, the reports said Bennett — a former education secretary and anti-drug czar — got the high-roller treatment, complete with limousines and tens of thousands of dollars in complimentary hotel rooms and other amenities.

Bennett told Newsweek that he had done nothing illegal and that over the course of a decade, he had “come out pretty close to even.” But the magazine quoted a casino source who had witnessed Bennett at a high-limit slot machine: “There’s a term in the trade for his kind of gambler. We call them losers.” Over one two-month period, Newsweek said, Bennett wired more than $1.4 million to one casino to cover losses. One casino source said Bennett lost $340,000 at Caesars in Atlantic City on July 12, 2002, and that on April 5 and 6 this year he lost more than $500,000 at the Bellagio in Las Vegas.

In addition to “The Book of Virtues,” Bennett has written “The Broken Hearth: Reversing the Moral Collapse of the American Family,” “Death of Outrage: Bill Clinton and the Assault on American Ideals” and “Why We Fight: Moral Clarity and the War on Terrorism.” He is a co-director of Empower America, a conservative policy group.

Original Story