Rubio's needle-threading on gaming

Marco Rubio wants Sheldon Adelson's money -- what GOP presidential hopeful wouldn't? -- but he also has to live with a history of opposing gaming expansion in Florida.

This issue surfaced again Thursday when The Washington Post published a piece on Rubio's signing on to the Adelson-backed online gaming ban, and included this: "In the past, Rubio has been highly critical of the gaming industry in Las Vegas....In 2011, again opposing more gambling in south Florida, he pointed to maladies in Nevada. 'Nevada is the gambling mecca of the United States and it has a higher unemployment rate [and] their housing market is upside down,' he said. 'They are hurting in Nevada.'"

After I reacted to this on Twitter, Rubio spokesman Alex Conant tweeted about the story: 

I understand Team Rubio's sensitivity ("That's not what I meant, Sheldon!"), but Conant also has a point. All Rubio was saying was that gaming is not a panacea, which, of course, is true.

On the other hand, while Rubio has not directly criticized the Vegas industry, he has been negative about gaming, which could be said to be a statement about Nevada's preminent industry. And there's no question that Rubio's opposition to web gaming is consistent with his past statements about the industry.

I wrote about Rubio's history of anti-gaming statements in February in my email newsletter. I am sure his positions have not gone unnoticed by the Strip, although Adelson, my sources tell me, thinks the Florida senator has potential.

The original story cited by the Post shows that Rubio in 2011 was quite negative about what gaming can do, saying, "Casinos are not the solution to everything. They bring their problems and have a negative impact on other industries."

Will this have any impact on Rubio's ability to win Nevada in the caucus or general, any more than his pro-Yucca Mountain stance will? Neither issue will be top of mind for most voters here, so I doubt it. But if the race is close, might Nevadacentric issues be important? Possibly.