The entire mess, according to Schlesinger, is overblown. First of all, he hasn't gambled much in recent years. "I gambled once this year. Last year I gambled about three or four times." Second, he wasn't kicked out of any casino. "No, no," he said when I asked about the incident. "If they know you're skilled, they ask you not to play blackjack," said Schlesinger. He has said repeatedly he has never won significant amounts of money at the game.
As for using a fake name on his "wampum card," a loyalty program the Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun casinos use to attract business, Schlesinger said he did that to protect his own privacy, and avoid the appearance of impropriety.
"They're a sovereign nation so you never know what they can do with the information," Schlesinger said of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe, which operates the casinos. " I didn't know what they were going to do."
Moreover, he noted that as a state legislator, he often voted on casino and gaming issues. "We were voting on this stuff in the state legislature, and I didn't want anybody to think I was biased. I didn't want anyone to say I was playing at the casino, so he's for or against the casino."
"I didn't even want one," he said of the wampum cards. "They bug you for it."
Despite the kerfuffle, Schlesinger insists his chances of winning the Senate seat are good and getting better. "I'd say they're going up every day," he told me. In particular, he says, card-counting gamblers have expressed support for him, defending the practice as completely legal and simply smart playing.
"I'm like a cult hero now," he said -- but acknowledged that such fame carries a downside. "I guess I'll never be able to go to another casino."