The Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump, has selected his vice presidential running mate, and his choice is one that will rankle supporters of legal, regulated online gambling. The Trump campaign has settled on Indiana Governor Mike Pence as their running mate.
While it’s certainly not an important issue in the grand scheme of things, Pence’s views on gaming, and specifically online gambling, are worth noting. Trump’s stance on online gambling is already a bit of a wild-card.
Pence’s views on gambling
Pence may harbor anti-gambling views, but Indiana is a gaming state.
When Pence took over as governor in January 2013, Indiana’s gaming options included riverboat casinos, a vibrant horse racing industry including pari-mutuel betting, and a state lottery.
Pence didn’t try to roll back any of Indiana’s current gaming products, but in October of 2014, Pence made it clear that he was not interested in expanding gambling’s footprint in the state. Here is Pence from an interview with the Indiana Business Journal:
“It’s never been the intention of my administration to promote policies that either expand or contract gaming in our state. But I’m going to make it very clear to legislators that our administration will not support any expansion of gaming in the state of Indiana.”
On the online gambling front, Pence took an even stronger stance.
When a federal online gambling ban was first introduced, Pence was one of several sitting governors who publicly supported the Sheldon Adelson backed Restoration of America’s Wire Act bill. He went so far as to write a letter to the Indiana congressional delegation urging them to support the measure.
Pence’s record less absolute
While Pence’s comments paint him as 100 percent opposed to gambling expansion, his record as governor of Indiana portrays him as having a more laissez-faire attitude towards gaming. The only constant: His opposition to online gambling expansion.
In 2015, Pence allowed two gaming expansion bills to become law through inaction. Pence neither signed nor vetoed the bills in the necessary timeframe, which automatically makes them law in Indiana. Pence did put his signature on a third gaming bill that clarified the state’s statutes governing charity gambling.
The first bill allowed the state’s riverboat casinos to move their operations onto land, and also gave the governor authority to negotiate a gaming compact with Indiana’s tribes. The compact would also have to be approved by the legislature.
The second bill Pence allowed to become law eased restrictions on how the state Horse Racing Commission can use breed development funds. Most notably, it allowed the Commission to use these funds to promote horse racing in Indiana.
Pence tried to square his decision to allow two of the bills to become law with his previous pronouncements to not expand gaming in the state in a statement:
“Most Hoosiers know that I oppose an expansion of gaming in Indiana, but I recognize that gaming has become an important part of the economy of many communities in our state and is an important part of our state budget,” said Governor Pence.
“From early in the legislative process, I made it clear that I would not stand in the way of reforms that would allow these businesses to remain competitive with surrounding states so long as it did not constitute an expansion of gaming in Indiana. HEA 1540 and SEA 252 meet this standard and, as such, I will permit them to become law without signature.”
Pence did veto a third gaming expansion bill passed by the legislature that would have allowed Indianans to place horse racing wagers online.
“This legislation is contrary to my long-time position against online gaming,” Pence said in a press release at the time. “Advance Deposit Wagering, not currently permitted in Indiana, would also violate my position on expanding gaming here in Indiana.”
Pence also signed a bill this year legalizing and regulating daily fantasy sports. That, however, was not presented as a piece of gambling legislation, but as a bill that clarified the status of DFS as a game of skill. The bill was also passed by overwhelming majorities in the statehouse, so a veto was not terribly likely.
State vs. federal
Because online gaming legalization is occurring at the state level, Pence is a larger obstacle to online gambling legalization efforts as the governor of Indiana than he would be should he become the vice president.
As I noted in a column at Bluff Magazine in May 2014, the state’s gaming industry is dealing with declining revenues, which makes Indiana a strong candidate for online gaming legalization. But Pence would almost assuredly veto any bill legalizing online gambling that landed on his desk.
But if we remove Pence from the equation, and replace him with a governor that is in favor of online gambling legalization, or at least ambivalent towards it, things could change. Of course, Pence will no longer be the governor in the state no matter what, as he is not running for reelection as a part of the Trump ticket.
With Pence out of the picture, the Hoosier State could quickly become a contender to be one of the next states to pass a law legalizing online gaming.
lev radin / Shutterstock.com