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Before he became the 45th President of the United States, Donald Trump was already a well-known figure. He was a reality television star, real estate mogul and quick-acting businessman with a diverse portfolio of interests. One of these, and among the most volatile for him over the years, was casinos.
Although he sold or declared bankruptcy for all the casinos that he used to own, Trump’s history with gambling means he has a good understanding of the industry. He also looked into online gambling as a business interest for himself in 2011, and at that time told Forbes Magazine that online gambling had to happen in North America because “many other countries are doing it and like usual the U.S. [was] just missing out”.
Severe Clamp Down on American Gambling
Fast forward to 2018, and a lot has happened. Trump now sits in the Oval Office, and the ruling by the Department of Justice that the Wire Act did not apply to online gambling is being threatened by conservatives and land-based casino magnates who are pushing the Restoration of America’s Wire Act, or RAWA, legislation. The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, or UIGEA, was passed in 2006 and made things more difficult for offshore gambling sites to accept American customers as a way of controlling the burgeoning online casino market.
All in all, a lot of people and organisations were looking to Trump to weigh in and make online gambling laws in the United States a lot more liberal. These parties include the American Gaming Association, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and New Jersey Senator Raymond Lesniak. The President has been quoted as saying that he will do away with unnecessary government legislation, and that the generation of such laws is one industry he does not support. One of his key campaign promises was to generate more jobs for US citizens, as part of the way he said he would put America first.
Since online and mobile casinos and sportsbooks could generate a huge amount of employment and tax revenue if properly regulated across the country, it seems like a no-brainer that Trump would be in favour of this. In light of his previous comments on online gambling, this would appear even more likely. However, this has not been the case.
Not only are there no plans to address rolling out more accommodating online casino law, but Attorney General Jeff Sessions has said that the ruling on the Wire Act will indeed be revisited. And Trump’s administration has just publicly sided with professional sports leagues, opposing New Jersey’s request to offer sportsbetting at casinos and racetracks.
There have been several appeals and the show isn’t over yet, with the decision facing the Supreme Court now being whether a federal statute prohibits the regulatory power of individual states. However, things aren’t looking very good for the three issues that the gambling industry specifically wanted him to address – daily fantasy sports, sportsbetting and internet gambling.
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Are Trump’s Land-Based Casino Connections Too Strong?
The apparent turn-around in the attitude of the President and his administration towards online gambling may be due to the several dubious connections that Trump has with Las Vegas bigwigs. Industry heavyweight Sheldon Adelson, owner of The Venetian and other Sin City institutions, has been fundamental in pushing RAWA and provided major backing to Trump’s campaign. He may well have the President’s ear, as may billionaire businessman Carl Icahn who bailed him out of a casino bankruptcy disaster and has served as a special advisor on financial regulation within the Trump administration. Could this be a case of Trump prioritising his most powerful friends over the citizens he swore to serve?