From our corner of the world, his presence in the Oval Office may have almost no impact on the gambling industry at large or the proliferation of online gambling in specific.
But at the same time, there’s a very real chance that Trump could affect the arc of online gambling in the US, and likely not in a good way.
The popular — albeit misguided — perception goes like this:
Trump ran casinos with his name on it. He likes gambling. Ergo, he likes online gambling and might do something to legalize nationwide.
At least one poker pro believes this to be true, and the sentiment reverberated through some of the poker world:
Just vote Trump and online poker be legal in a yr https://t.co/dJTxZ20Gp4
— Mike Matusow (@themouthmatusow) October 27, 2016
This narrative largely defies logic, however.
The only thing we have from Trump on the record is from five years ago, in which he tacitly supported online gambling. For anyone who knows Trump and his presidential campaign, what he has said in the past sometimes has little bearing on what he believes or says now.
For the sake of argument, even if you do believe that Trump would like to see online gambling legalized at the federal level, there are problems. Namely, Republicans in a position of power — like Sen. Mitch McConnell and Rep. Jason Chaffetz — have advanced the exact opposition position. That position? A ban on online gambling everywhere in the US via federal legislation called the Restoration of America’s Wire Act.
At the same time, federal legislation that would legalize online poker hasn’t gained any traction in years.
To further put a damper on the idea that a Trump administration would ever legalize US online poker or gambling, consider the following.
Sheldon Adelson — the CEO of the Las Vegas Sands Corp. — is the person who has bankrolled efforts to stop online gambling at the federal level. What else has Adelson done? He gave a lot of money to the Trump campaign.
This is a relationship that has been percolating for some time, with the possibility of an impact on online poker legalization.
If you think Adelson won’t have the ear of Trump based on the money he has given, then you don’t know much about politics. Should Congress get a bill to Trump’s desk outlawing online gambling, the odds of him signing it would likely approach 100 percent, given this relationship.
But that may be the toughest part of the equation.
Despite having a majority in both chambers, Republicans have failed to get RAWA — or any iteration of language decrying online gambling — anywhere near passage. Hearings held late last year by Chaffetz were nothing short of a debacle.
That doesn’t mean that the powers spearheading RAWA will give up, however. They might be emboldened by the fact that Republicans hold majorities in the House and the Senate, along with how having control of the presidency.
Still, even Republicans haven’t been entirely on board with RAWA and its implications. (Namely, it would roll back online gambling laws passed in New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware, and would sideline legalization efforts in states like Pennsylvania and New York.)
RAWA usurps the Tenth Amendment, many lawmakers agree, by taking the ability to regulate a form of gambling out of states’ hands. And that is not a terribly popular position to take for many Republicans.
On the flip side of the coin, there is one somewhat positive development accompanying a Trump presidency from the online gambling standpoint.
NJ Gov. Chris Christie had been slated to head up Trump’s transition team; however, he has been embroiled in scandal of late over Bridgegate.
Christie, of course, signed legislation that authorized NJ online poker and gambling, although it’s not clear how much of an advocate Christie would be for any sort of legislation at the federal level. In his role as governor, he was simply trying to prop up his state’s ailing casino industry.
Christie has also had a relationship with Adelson in the past, however. So thinking Christie would be an automatic online gambling proponent is far from a given.
A Trump presidency’s impact on online gambling is certainly unknown, other than it’s not likely to be a positive.
The most likely — and most optimistic scenario — would be the status quo. That means online gambling can be legalized by the states as they desire, with no change at the federal level.
But within the range of outcomes is the possibility that online gambling is banned everywhere in the US.
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