December 20, 2016
By Wayne Parry
Donald Trump will be the first U.S. president to have ever owned a casino, and the gambling industry is wondering how he will handle three major issues: internet gambling, sports betting and daily fantasy sports.
The industry has sent its wish list to the president-elect. The American Gaming Association told The Associated Press it has asked Trump for fewer regulations, approval of sports betting, a crackdown on illegal gambling, tax reform and immigration policies that don’t dry up the flow of overseas gamblers — and workers — to U.S. casinos.
“President Trump, his administration and Congress will unquestionably implement policies that will directly impact our industry for years to come,” Whitaker Askew, the association’s vice president, told the AP.
Kirk Blalock, a lobbyist who worked for the George W. Bush administration, said Trump “comes to the table with a good, solid understanding of how the industry works and what the challenges are.”
Just three states — New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware — allow internet gambling, and well-financed opponents, backed by billionaire casino magnate and Trump backer Sheldon Adelson, want to ban it nationwide.
Trump and his daughter, Ivanka, formed a company in New Jersey to explore the possibility of offering internet gambling in New Jersey before the state legalized it in 2013, but never applied for a license to do it.
In a brief interview in September, Trump told the AP he had not settled on a position regarding online gambling.
“I have a lot of friends on both sides of this issue,” he said.
His transition team did not respond to several recent requests for comment. The gaming association does not take a position on internet gambling.
Sports betting is currently legal in four states: Nevada, Oregon, Delaware and Montana. And dozens of states are grappling with whether daily fantasy sports, in which players put up money to compete with each other to assemble teams of athletes who accrue points based on their real-world performances, constitutes a game of skill that does not need to be regulated, or gambling, which does.
In a November 2015 interview with Fox Sports 1, Trump indicated he would not oppose sports betting or daily fantasy sports.
“I’m OK with it because it’s happening anyway,” he said.
Trump owned three casinos in Atlantic City, as well as one in Indiana for a time. Two of his former Atlantic City casinos, Trump Plaza and the Trump Taj Mahal, have closed. The third, Trump Marina, was sold to Texas billionaire Tilman Fertitta, who now runs it as the Golden Nugget.
Steve Norton, an Indiana casino consultant who worked with Trump in the 1980s, predicted he will ultimately oppose nationwide approval of internet gambling, due in part to Adelson’s opposition, but said he does not think Trump would move to strip it from states that already offer it.
“Sports betting, on the other hand is a multibillion-dollar industry, mostly illegal,” Norton said. “I believe the positives of oversight, taxing and ensuring fair odds outweigh any negatives, and hopefully Mr. Trump will support individual states rights, and help overturn” a federal ban.
Norton predicted daily fantasy sports will be “a non-issue” for Trump, who will leave it to states to regulate or not.
The association’s letter asks Trump to make sure Yucca Mountain in Nevada is not reconsidered as a repository for the nation’s nuclear waste because it is just 90 miles from Las Vegas.