AGA Bets on Gambling Reform by Sending Olive Branch to President-Elect Trump

When rogue Republican candidate Donald Trump staged a political upset for the ages and won the Presidency on November 7, poker pundits immediately began prognosticating about the incoming administration’s outlook on the online gambling industry.

Considering his choice of former Indiana governor Mike Pence – notorious for his staunch anti-online gambling stance – for the Vice President slot, many industry insiders expected a future President Trump to be aligned in opposition.

The tide seems to be turning of late though, with one of the industry’s major lobbying groups penning a memo to Trump in an attempt to find common ground heading into 2017.

Per a press release issued by the American Gaming Association (AGA) on December 20, the organization sent a letter to Trump and his transition team, under the subject line “Casino Gaming Priorities Under Trump Administration.”

In the opening line, the AGA points to Trump’s former career as a casino owner – he owned the Trump Taj Mahal, Trump Plaza, and Trump Marina in Atlantic City during the 1980s and 1990s – as the basis for his understanding of the industry’s pressing issues.

From there, the letter describes various benefits provided by a thriving legalized and regulated gambling industry. As stated by the AGA, the organization represents a comprehensive gaming industry valued at $240 billion, creates and maintains 1.7 million jobs, transfers $38 billion in tax revenue to local, state, and federal tax coffers, and operates legally in 40 states across the country.

What follows is a list of priorities that the AGA hopes to see the Trump administration pursue during his term in office.

Among those policy proposals are a renewed push to clamp down on five forms of illegal gambling (illegal sports betting; black market machines; Internet sweepstakes cafes; animal fighting; and illegal online betting); a repeal or rollback of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PAPSA) of 1992 which prohibits sports betting throughout most of the country; and reforming the tax code to remove the “high burden gaming companies face.”

In the press release, AGA president and CEO Geoff Freeman outlined the group’s collective sense of enthusiasm as a former casino owner prepares to assume the highest office in the land:

“We look forward to working with the Trump administration and the incoming Congress on a range of critical issues, from sports betting and illegal gambling to tax reform and immigration. The gaming industry has never been more united and better positioned to advocate for policies that promote growth and reinvestment.

In this letter, we talked about how the AGA hopes to build a policy environment that is conducive to reinvestment in innovation.”

Interestingly enough, the AGA’s letter failed to mention the word “poker” even once, which may signal a compromise of sorts on the group’s behalf. Trump’s candidacy was supported, politically and financially, by land-based casino mogul Sheldon Adelson – a longtime billionaire backer of conservative causes who has funded multiple efforts to ban online poker on the federal level in recent years.

Both Adelson and Gail Icahn, the wife of billionaire investor Carl Icahn – who assumed control of the Trump Entertainment Resorts casino operations in February following bankruptcy proceedings – have been named to the Trump inauguration committee. The inauguration fundraiser is expected to draw $75 million in donations from figures like Adelson and the Icahn family.