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Mitt Romney Bet Offer To Rick Perry May Have Almost Been A Felony Offense

Mitt Romney Bet Rick Perry

Posted: 12/12/11 01:25 PM ET

Did Rick Perry save Mitt Romney from committing a felony Saturday night in Iowa?

During Saturday night's debate, Romney offered to bet Perry $10,000 that he had misquoted Romney's book in claiming that he had earlier supported a mandated approach to health care. Perry looked at him like he was crazy and declined the bet.

But "gaming and betting" are clearly banned in Iowa, other than in the context of racetracks and bingo. According to section 725.7.b. of the Iowa criminal code, a person shall not "make any bet" --- anyone who does is guilty of a class "C" felony if the bet exceeds $5,000.

One of the penalties for wagering is forfeiture of the amount bet. So does Mitt Romney owe Iowa $10,000?

Section 725.8 specifies: "Property, whether real or personal, offered as a stake, or any moneys, property, or other thing of value staked, paid, bet, wagered, laid, or deposited in connection with or as a part of any game of chance, lottery, gambling scheme or device, gift enterprise, or other trade scheme unlawful under the laws of this state shall be forfeited to the state and said personal property may be seized and disposed of under chapter 809."

But the fact that Perry refused to take Romney's bet may have saved the former Massachusetts governor. Legal analysts often say that when the law specifies an exception, that by definition implies a rule. For instance, if the law says that no booze can be sold on Sundays, the legal presumption is that alcohol can be sold every other day.

In the criminal code under "gambling by underage persons," the law specifies that a kid "shall not make or attempt to make a gambling wager." The "or-attempt-to-make" language doesn't appear in the law related to adults. So Mitt Romney might not owe Rick Perry $10,000, but he owes him his gratitude for helping him avoid breaking the law.

Then again, all Iowa lawmakers proved by broadening the definition in the section on minors is that they know how to broaden it, not that they didn't intend to criminalize attempted gambling. So is Romney guilty? The jury's out.

Mike Sacks contributed to this report.

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