AGA welcomes Trump with a call for PASPA repeal

AGA welcomes Trump with a call for PASPA repeal

Thursday, November 17, 2016 Posted by Andy McCarron
Relationship between Trump and Adelson under scrutiny

The American Gaming Association (AGA) wasted no time in welcoming President-elect Donald Trump’s ascension to the White House and looked forward to “important victories for the gaming industry” now that a “new era” had been ushered in in Washington DC.

Chief executive Geoff Freeman said in a statement that the AGA was “optimistic a Trump administration will feature significantly more restrained federal agencies that what our industry (and many others) experienced over the last eight years.”

Donald Trump is what the AGA likely consider ‘one of theirs’ having previously owned casinos in Atlantic City. He has continuing close ties with Sheldon Adelson, chairman and chief executive at Las Vegas Sands, who was among his more high-profile backers in the election just gone.

The AGA signalled its hopes for more pro-gaming action when it immediately followed up its welcoming of the new Trumpian era with a call early this week for the repeal of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act from 1992.

The body is joining the state of New Jersey in its appeal to the Supreme Court to have PASPA overturned. Alongside the state, three US free-market think-tanks, including the Pacific Legal Foundation, the Competitive Enterprise Institute and the Cato Institute have also joined the fight as well as five Attorneys General from West Virginia, Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi and Wisconsin.

The AGA has issued what is called an ‘amicus curiae’ (friend of the court) brief saying that the “failed federal ban on sports betting is driving an illegal, underground market of at least $150bn annually.”

Again, Freeman cited Trump’s prior knowledge of the gambling industry, pointing out that the President-elect has previously acknowledged illegal sports-betting was a “thriving industry.”

However, whether further liberalisation of gambling will be on the mind of the new administration or the Republican-controlled Congress is open to debate.

For all Trump’s links to the industry, it is still the case that the mainstream Republican party is generally less pro-gambling than the Democrats. Moreover, with the avowedly anti-online gambling Adelson playing a part behind-the-scenes, the possibility must be that the “new era” might not be as propitious for the gambling industry as might have been supposed.

One online operator source with a view on the developments in the US pointed out that “recent history suggests that a Republican Senate and Congress will be ultra conservative when it comes to the proliferation of gambling.”

While a Trump administration might look to crackdown further on might act on unregulated offshore activities, the Adelson connection makes it unlikely there would be any concerted action to further legalise online.

Still, Nevada and New Jersey interests will still likely be happy with the Trump presidency. As an example of the potential closeness, Adelson, Steve Wynn, chairman of Wynn Resorts, and Treasure Island casino owner Phil Ruffin are on the 20-strong inauguration committee.

A spokesperson for Adelson told Bloomberg: “Well, we got our first casino owner in the White House.”

Totally Gaming says: Whatever President Trump means for the rest of the world, the likelihood is that the casino operators in the US will be very happy to have effectively, as the Adelson spokesperson suggests, a former casino magnate as the leader of the free world. Whether this translates into any specific gaming industry-friendly legislation is open to question given the initial agenda for the new president (and the confusion around the transition doesn’t bode well for considered policies as it stands).

Speaking of which, the online industry is likely somewhat lamenting the ousting of Chris Christie from the transition team as he was the big hope for moves regarding online gambling. Something might still happen, but all eyes there will now be on how close the relationship is between Trump and Adelson.

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