January 19, 2008 / 9:09 AM / 12 years ago

Confusion and lively vote at Vegas casinos

LAS VEGAS (Reuters) - Amid plenty of shouting and confusion, Nevada voters expressed a preference on Saturday for Republican Mitt Romney and Democrat Hillary Clinton in an U.S. election process as quirky as Las Vegas itself.

Supporters of Presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) encourage supporters of former Senator John Edwards to come to their side at the Democratic caucus at Luxor hotel and casino in Las Vegas January 19, 2008. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

Clinton, her husband former President Bill Clinton, and her rival Sen. Barack Obama made morning visits to casino workers in a final push for votes in the gambling capital, one of the world’s best-known tourist destinations.

Romney, a former governor of Massachusetts, headed to Florida, which holds the next Republican nominating contest on January 29.

Democrats and Republicans in Nevada, a state famous for gambling, easy divorce and America’s only legalized prostitution, voted in nominating contests to choose candidates for the November presidential election.

For the Democratic contest, nine of Las Vegas’s best-known casino hotels hosted balloting. At the upscale Wynn Hotel, several hundred workers divided themselves into groups supporting either Clinton or Obama, with many shouting out their support or booing rivals.

“It’s a little crazy,” said Sidrit Mulaj, an Albanian-born Clinton supporter.

Some nightclub employees stayed up all night; others were confused about the process and arrived too late.

One worker fretted as she had to stay longer than her hour-long lunch break. “They can’t really fire me for this can they?” asked Tracy Ferguson, 44, a Clinton supporter who raced out of the room after the vote.

UNION IMPACT UNCERTAIN

The casino voting had been expected to boost Obama, who would be the first black U.S. president, because casino workers are largely represented by a union that endorsed him.

But at the Wynn Hotel, Clinton edged out Obama by 185 to 181 after the first count, in what was clearly a split union.

Among Republicans, Romney and longshot candidate Rep. Ron Paul of Texas made the biggest effort in Nevada, where their party’s voting drew less attention because of a Republican primary contest in South Carolina on the same day.

“We’re going to make it loud and clear here in Nevada, hopefully across the country, that we want change in Washington,” Romney said. Nearly 7 percent of Nevadans share Romney’s Mormon faith.

As in Iowa earlier this month, the Nevada decisions were reached by dividing into small groups backing particular candidates, rather than the direct voting used in most other states. Republicans did not vote on the famed Las Vegas Strip, but only at schools and more traditional sites.

Additional reporting by Jason Szep and Jeff Mason; editing by Lori Santos and Jackie Frank

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