Michigan Lottery Director Helped Democrats Hold U.S. Senate

November 23, 2022
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The most vivid example of the gaming industry’s growing influence on state and national politics may be the slim majority held by Democrats in the United States Senate.

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The most vivid example of the gaming industry’s growing influence on state and national politics may be the slim majority held by Democrats in the United States Senate.

With one more Senate race to be decided, Senator Gary Peters of Michigan has almost completely succeeded in his mission as chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) to elect all his party’s candidates this year.

Peters, who will turn 64 on December 1, led the Michigan Lottery Commission from April 2003 to August 2007 after being appointed by then-Democratic Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm, the current secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy.

Granholm appointed Peters after he lost an extremely close race for Michigan attorney general in 2002.

“Granholm rescued Peters from the political wilderness when she appointed him to be lottery director, which was a plum job at that time,” said Bill Ballenger, a Michigan political pundit and a former Republican member of the Wolverine State’s House of Representatives and Senate.

Peters parlayed the lottery commission job into a successful run for Congress in 2008 and went on to win a U.S. Senate seat in 2014.

“He’s a moderate Democrat who doesn’t draw a lot of attention to himself, but he really seems to have grown into his job as the DSCC chairman,” Ballenger said.

With a runoff election scheduled on December 6 in Georgia for the last remaining Senate seat, Democrats hold a 50-49 edge over Republicans.

Even if Republican Herschel Walker wins the runoff over incumbent Democrat Raphael Warnock to create a 50-50 Senate, Vice President Kamala Harris, a former Democratic senator from California, will cast the deciding vote on any ties in future debates.

Virtually the same scenario unfolded after the presidential election in 2020 when another Democratic senator with links to the gambling industry, Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada, served as chair of the DSCC.

Masto, 58, was re-elected this month to a second six-year term in the Senate.

“Gone are the days when scores of congressional members would wake up thinking about how to enact harmful policies specifically targeting gaming,” said Whit Askew, a former lobbyist for the American Gaming Association who works for Subject Matter, an influential lobbying firm in Washington, D.C.

“In contrast, today there is an active Congressional Gaming Caucus with dozens of members representing diverse regional and political stripes.”

Disbanded twice previously, the Congressional Gaming Caucus was relaunched in 2020 by Republican Guy Reschenthaler of Pennsylvania and Democrat Dina Titus of Nevada.

Both Reschenthaler, 39, and Titus, 72, were re-elected to two-year terms in the U.S. House of Representatives this month.

Meanwhile, the political influence of gaming tribes — in states as well as in Congress — has never been stronger.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who announced on November 17 she was stepping down from her leadership post, had an enormous impact on the inclusion of Native American leaders in the political process, according to tribal gaming lobbyist Michael Anderson of Washington, D.C.

“In the gaming arena, Pelosi routinely deferred to the expertise of [House] Natural Resources Committee Chairs like [Democrat] Raul Grijalva in shepherding bills like the Catawba casino land-in-trust bill through Congress,” Anderson said.

“Moreover, she tended to avoid interjecting herself in between divisive tribe-versus-tribe fights like the North Forth Rancheria and Enterprise Rancheria situations in Northern California.”

Yet another sign of the growing prominence of gambling in national affairs can be seen in the legal battle between the U.S. Department of Justice and former President Donald Trump over national security documents taken from Trump’s home in Mar-a-Lago, Florida, on August 8.

James Trusty, one of Trump’s lawyers, is a member of Ifrah Law, a Washington, D.C. firm which represents internet gambling companies.

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