With no shortage of Republican candidates to choose from (17 at last check), one would think there would be a variety of opinions amongst the field when it comes to online gambling.
Unfortunately, iGaming advocates are finding the crop of 2016 Republicans pretty much in lockstep with one another on this issue, save two outliers. The other 15 candidates’ views on online gambling lay somewhere between vehemently opposed and unknown.
The Magnificent Seven?
The good news is that the candidates who fully support Sheldon Adelson’s constant calls to prohibit online gambling (RAWA), or have publicly voiced their opposition to online gambling, aren’t doing very well in the polls.
Online gambling is certainly not a litmus test type issue in presidential politics, but it should be noted that the seven Republican candidates running for president who have come out against online gambling are polling at a collective 10 percent in the latest Monmouth Poll, and 15 percent in the latest PPP poll.
The anti-online gambling candidate with the highest polling numbers is Florida Senator and RAWA sponsor Marco Rubio. Rubio is in the first trail pack with average polling numbers of 6.2 percent. Rubio is also believed to be the only legitimate candidate of the seven anti-gambling candidates.
Here is a look at the average polling numbers of other anti-online gambling candidates:
- Mike Huckabee: 4.4 percent – Huckabee was in lockstep agreement with CSIG Chair Blanche Lincoln during an interview on his FOX News show Huckabee.
- Rick Perry: 1.2 percent – As governor of Texas, Perry penned a letter supporting a federal online gambling ban.
- Rick Santorum: 1 percent – A strong social conservative, Santorum is against gambling in any form.
- Bobby Jindal: .2 percent – Like Perry, Jindal, the governor of Louisiana, supported Sheldon Adelson’s calls for an online gambling ban.
- George Pataki: .2 percent – Pataki is a former co-chair of the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling.
- Lindsey Graham: 0 percent – Graham introduced RAWA into the U.S. Senate in 2014 and 2015, and has been one of iGaming’s most vocal critics in Congress.
Six other candidates, Carly Fiorina, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Jim Gilmore, John Kasich, and Scott Walker, could seemingly go either way on the issue.
Even though they haven’t articulated their views on online gambling, my belief is that most of these candidates are unlikely to stand in RAWA’s way if it were passed in Congress. Cruz and Kasich would be the least likely to sign RAWA into law in my opinion, but at the same time they might also support a bill legalizing online poker or online gambling.
Bottom line: Their stances on this issue need to be fleshed out.
One candidate who is no friend of gaming
If Jeb Bush’s history in Florida is any indication, he wouldn’t balk at the chance to ban online gambling, and he almost certainly wouldn’t sign a bill that legalized gambling in any way, shape or form.
Are any Republicans pro-online gambling?
Pro-online gambling is somewhat of a mischaracterization in this field, but several candidates would likely be willing to sign a bill legalizing online gambling at the federal level, or veto a bill prohibiting it.
Donald Trump is one such candidate, as the former casino magnate has ties to online gaming companies. Trump’s problem is that despite his massive lead in the early polls, he’s not considered a serious candidate.
Another candidate who is unlikely to support an online gaming ban is Rand Paul. Paul is the libertarian-minded senator from Kentucky and son of former presidential candidate Ron Paul, who was one of iGaming’s champions in Congress before and after his retirement.
The junior Paul’s libertarian beliefs are not as strong as his father’s, but they would almost certainly keep him from supporting a bill prohibiting iGaming. Paul’s libertarian viewpoint is “let the states handle it.”
A final candidate who would have a hard time supporting RAWA is New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.
Christie of course signed New Jersey’s bill legalizing online gambling into law in early 2013.
Were a President Christie to sign RAWA (in its current form) into law he would essentially undo three years of work in his home state of New Jersey, likely turning him into a pariah among Garden State residents.