Online Poker and President-Elect Donald Trump, Are There Grounds for Optimism

During 2011, Donald Trump announced that he was going to partner with hedge fund manager Marc Lasry in order to set up an online gambling company. This decision was made after Black Friday, as he anticipated new federal legislation to be legalized for online poker, however, that never materialized. People who know President Elect Donald Trump, his presidential campaign, what he has stated in the past has little bearing to what he believes or says at the currant time. There are grounds for optimism, that President Elect Trump’s presidency will probably remove current threats to state regulation of online gambling, and possibly reduce the Republican opposition to a federal bill. If Mr Trump means what he says, the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA) bill is dead, It was drafted by the Republican Representative, Jason Chaffetz, which would have put an end to any state regulated online gambling, if it’s passed into law. This bill died December 2015, after it was clear during the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee’s hearing, that the committee members themselves were opposed to it. Even the Chairman, Mr.Chaffetz, could not get the committee united behind RAWA. Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D- New Jersey) expressed her opposition during the hearing where she said that the evidence had clearly shown that with proper regulation, that in-state online gambling has proven to be no more challenging to the law enforcement or any risks to players than brick and mortar casinos. With Republicans to have control over the Senate and the House of Representatives, it might be concluded that RAWA could be back on the table. However, there are some important issues on which Mr. Trump ran his campaign which is militate against a return of RAWA.

No more pay-to-play politics

RAWA was a prime example of the pay-to-play politics. The gambling mogul and the 14th richest man in the world, Sheldon Adelson, bought in support for RAWA, using large political donations to politicians both Democrat and Republican. In the rhetoric of Mr. Trump’s election campaign, Mr. Chaffetz was bought, a puppet of his billionaire master. A meme of the campaign, the chant drain the swamp, meant putting an end to the sort of influence that Mr. Adelson has over policy. Mr. Adelson donated $25 million to the anti-Clinton super PACs, however, for him Israel is a bigger issue than online gambling, and he will be happy if Mr. Trump maintains a pro-Israel stance.

Restoration of 10th amendment

The Trump transition team, which up until recently, was headed by the New Jersey Governor, Chris Christie, is currently in full flow, publishing the policies that a Trump presidency will try to enact. In a section on constitutional rights, it states on the website: States that he will defend all Americans’ fundamental rights to free speech, rights to religious liberty, the keeping and bearing of arms, and all other rights that are guaranteed to them in the “Bill of Rights and other constitutional provisions”. This also includes the Tenth Amendment guarantee, that many areas of governance will be left to the people and the States, and that they are not the role of federal government to fulfil. In a cynical interpretation, one may take this enthusiasm of the tenth amendment, as a way to opposing the Affordable Care Act namely (Obamacare), stance on abortion, and possibly gay marriage. However, it looks very unlikely that President Elect Trump will be overriding the states rights to authorizing online gambling. If he signed off on RAWA he would be kowtowing to the big money lobbying, and also breaking the states rights under the tenth amendment - Mr. Trump would look like a fool. Chris Christie, the vice chairman of the transition team, was recently the governor of New Jersey, it was he that signed online gambling legislation into law. He has also dallied with Sheldon Adelson, but, when helping to prepare Mr. Trump’s policy documents, he won’t be penning proposals that will deny his own state online gambling. New Jersey has taken over financial control of Atlantic City. Therefore there is no way that Mr. Christie will risk online gambling revenues going to the Atlantic City casinos given the ongoing financial crisis. With Pres. Elect Trump and Mr. Christie together, they are the most important drivers of the presidential policy which means RAWA is dead. The Republicans could put RAWA forward again, and thus dare Trump to veto the bill. However, to do this they would have to get the bill passed through the House and Senate. The question regarding online poker is whether the opposition will be alienating the new Republican working class voters, or, will they support RAWA. It is thought that the Trump voter base, that includes, it is thought to include a lot of former working class democrats, may be more amenable to a pro-online gaming stance than the traditional Republican base.