It’s official, come January 20, Donald Trump will be sworn in as the 45th President of the United States.
Trump has taken a number of bold, controversial policy stances during his presidential campaign, but on other issues he has been quiet. One of those issues, an issue that is largely unimportant to the country but resonates with readers of our site, is online gambling.
Online gambling may be low down on the totem pole, considering the Trump administration and the Republican-controlled Congress will have a lot of consequential issues they want to deal with.
But this is a site dedicated to all things online gambling, which could be a policy issue the Trump administration decides to tackle at some point. After all, the federal prohibition being pushed by casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, the Restoration of America’s Wire Act, is still kicking around the halls of Congress.
Here’s what we know.
Trump’s previous statements on online gambling
Trump’s only public statements about online gambling came five years ago, when he teamed up with Marc Lasrey to form Poker Ventures LLC. The company applied for and received a vendor’s license from the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement, but has never been an active player in the market, and no one really knows what position Trump held in the company, or if Trump is still involved with the company.
At the time, Trump told Forbes, “It [legal online gambling] has to happen because many other countries are doing it and like usual the U.S. is just missing out.”
Cabinet and appointments will be a good indicator
Statement aside, the best predictor of how the Trump administration will deal with online gambling is whom he surrounds himself with, and who he appoints to specific positions.
For those of us interested in online gambling, the most important appointment Donald Trump will make is attorney general.
It’s the US AG that could rescind the 2011 opinion by the Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel that opened the door for state-regulated online gambling. RAWA supporter Lindsey Graham questioned current Attorney General Loretta Lynch about her thoughts on the opinion during her confirmation hearings.
As far as Trump’s short-list for the job, it’s unlikely to be the seemingly pro-gaming Chris Christie. The ongoing Bridgegate scandal would make it difficult for the governor of New Jersey to hold any position in the administration that requires Senate confirmation.
A more likely landing spot for Christie in the Trump administration would be chief of staff, or some other role that doesn’t require a confirmation hearing.
Another name I’ve seen mentioned is Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, although I’m not sure how the optics of such an appointment would play out, considering the two have been accused of engaging in a quid-pro-quo.
Which brings us to another potential person Trump might nominate for the AG position, former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani. Giuliani’s opinions on online gambling haven’t been fleshed out, but there is this troubling bit of history from 2007:
“Rudy Giuliani is jetting around the country wooing Bible-thumping conservatives, but his plane is often provided by a king of Sin City.
“The Republican presidential hopeful anted up more than $122,000 last summer alone for jets traceable to casino kingpin Sheldon Adelson, whose Las Vegas Sands empire has made him the third-richest American, a Daily News review of campaign records shows.
“Last quarter, The Sands’ innocuously named Interface Operations LLC was the top provider of corporate jets to the frequently flying Giuliani, who was whisked around the country on the casino’s plush Gulfstream G-IV in late August and early September, records show.”
And more recently, Giuliani has been seen kissing Adelson’s ring, literally:
Just now Rudy Giuliani kissed Adelsons ring. Literally. He appeared to be joking around, but it happened.
— Dana Bash (@DanaBashCNN) September 27, 2016
Also worrisome, is the amount of money Sheldon Adelson donated to the Trump campaign.
Adelson’s support should at least give him the opportunity to bend the ear of the incoming president, and perhaps convince him that if Congress should pass the bill, Trump should sign it.
Another Adelson connection
Trump also appointed Michael Abboud, the nephew of Las Vegas Sands Vice President of Government Relations Andy Abboud, as his communications director back in June. Abboud left his position with the Trump campaign in September according to his LinkedIn page.
Andy Abboud has served as Sheldon Adelson’s mouthpiece in his fight to prohibit online gambling, often railing against online gambling in hearings.
Congressional gridlock may continue to derail RAWA
The mood around the country is that with control of the House of Representatives, the Senate, and the White House, Republicans will be able to push through a large part of their agenda. But while it’s a handful of Republicans spearheading congressional efforts to prohibit online gambling, this isn’t a party-line issue. Nor is it an issue with a lot of support.
RAWA has struggled to gain much support in either chamber of Congress, and most of the pushback against the Restoration of America’s Wire Act has come from small-government Tea Party Republicans, who look at the bill as anathema to their Tenth Amendment principles.
Thus far, there has proven to be little appetite to pass a federal online gambling ban in Congress. Even though a Trump presidency might be amenable to passing this type of legislation, there seems to be a strong firewall in the Congress.