Will Trump Shake Up American Gambling?

Tia Winter | 14 December 2016

United States President-elect Donald Trump has evoked strong reactions from people holding political viewpoints of all kinds, both during his presidential campaign and since his somewhat surprising victory. His business dealings, character and understanding of his new job have been lauded by some, and slammed by others.

Online casino players and operators are now considering how Trump’s presidency will affect online gambling legislation. As things stand, every state can determine its own legality and legislation around these issues, and many players enjoy the convenience of playing from the comfort of their own homes or on their mobile devices.

In the past few years, Trump has voiced support for more widespread online gambling in America. Will this continue now that he is president?

Trump’s Casino Conundrums

Trump has created some of his own wealth through land-based casinos. These holdings are not currently large enough to grant him online licences but, through other shareholders and companies, he is involved in an online site called Poker Ventures LLC.

Trump’s famous rollercoaster of successful and unsuccessful dealings extends to casinos, and his Trump Taj Mahal had to close when Trump Entertainment Resorts went into bankruptcy in September 2014. The company became a subsidiary of Icahn Enterprises, and billionaire investor Carl Icahn was to re-open the establishment. After questionable issues on skirting unions and other factors were raised, however, the New Jersey senate passed a bill saying Icahn couldn’t do so for the next five years.

In Bed with the Bosses

The relationship between Trump and Icahn seems clear, and he has also publicly endorsed Trump. In fact, almost all Las Vegas bigwigs apart from Steve Wynn who remained neutral and Jim Murren who backed Hilary Clinton, came out in support of Trump. While he said at the beginning of his campaign that he would not kowtow to high-profile donors, his lack of funds and staff meant that he had to.

Now the concern is that Trump is in the pockets of the Las Vegas fat cats, most notably Sheldon Adelson. Owner of The Palazzo, The Venetian and the Las Vegas Sands Corp, Adelson is one of the richest men in America and has used his wealth to amass considerable political clout. Now he’s using that to push RAWA, or the Restoration of America’s Wire Act which would ban all online gambling and which is considered by many experts to be a move against his competitors and not, as he claims, an attempt to prevent underage gambling. With the president-elect in his pocket Adelson might be successful, which could impact on the potential voluntary tax that each state can tap into and access if desired.

Allegations, Connections and Conflicts

Jeb Bush has accused Trump of trying to buy him off with favours and donations when he was Governor of Florida, to advance his own casino interests in the state. Bush was opposed to expanding gambling, and when he recently made the accusation during a live debate Trump denied the allegation. However, he is on the record admitting to these activities, during a separate lawsuit in 2007. Pence, Trump’s future Vice President, has also accepted campaign donations from Indiana groups with gaming interests, which is not only illegal in the state, but against his own perceived principles that drove him to make several congressional efforts to block online gambling.

The future of online gambling under Donald Trump’s administration seems as if it could go either way. As with many other issues, waiting to see what he does rather than listening to what he says might be the way to go!