So we have a new American President-elect fully accountable to rural voters in the red counties who put him over the hump and the question becomes what does it all mean?
For gaming, there are some educated guesses one can make. A former casino operator himself, Donald Trump pushed for legalized sports betting in Atlantic City when the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 gave New Jersey a year to pass legislation on the issue, which never made it out of committee in Trenton. He hasn’t changed his basic stance on the issue.
“I’m OK with (legal sports betting), because it’s happening anyway,” Trump said in a 2015 interview on Fox Sports 1. “Whether you have it or don’t have it, you have it. It’s all over the place.”
The matter is working its way through the courts right now, with New Jersey’s efforts to legalize sports betting at casinos and racetracks having been scuttled by the U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals. The U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether to hear the case early next year.
If there’s one form of gaming Trump has clashed with, it’s tribal gaming, which he saw as a threat to his Atlantic City business. In the 1990s, his was the most prominent voice in the commercial casino industry raised against the growth of tribal gaming, and his liberal use of insults is not so fondly remembered. More recently, he nicknamed Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas” for her claim of Cherokee ancestry, so one could conclude he hasn’t evolved much, at least on the question of cultural sensitivity. What this means for his approach to government-to-government relations and tribal gaming oversight remains an open question. It is worth mentioning that, for all the heated rhetoric in the 1990s, Trump also sought management partnerships with some tribes, including one in California where he personally visited.
On the online gaming front, the picture is also uncertain. In 2011 when the state of New Jersey was moving toward legalization, Trump told Forbes magazine that online gaming, “has to happen because many other countries are doing it and like usual the U.S. is just missing out,” subsequent to which Trump Entertainment entered into the online gaming arena. More recently, his presidential campaign was backed by staunch anti-iGaming opponent Sheldon Adelson, leading to much speculation that iGaming, and, more specifically, the casino industry’s opposition to Adelson’s legislative attempt to restore the Wire Act, was thrown under the bus as part of the bargain. As with everything else, we’ll have to wait and see.
In a fun little twist, the Restoration of America’s Wire Act is co-sponsored by Trump’s Republican presidential sparring partner Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, which touches on one of the many unknowns of his coming presidency: congressional relations. It’s really too early to speculate on the particulars, but it’s hard not to imagine some big things getting done, given that Republicans control Congress and the White House. But it’s also easy to see how there can be bumps along the way considering that the unconventional Trump really didn’t campaign as a conventional Republican. If I were a betting man, I’d say your VIP customers are in for a windfall, but long-term retirement security for the middle class might take a hit, particularly if Medicare is on the table. Then again, we’ll see.
THE PLAY’S THE THING
The more things change…well, you know. It was a pleasure to hear consultant David Kranes’ keynote speech at our Cutting Edge Table Games conference in Las Vegas last month. A publisher of over 40 plays, he spoke of the three actors in the table game space: the underdog hero (the player) who pits his money and skill in a losing battle against math; the duplicitous dealer, who really kinda sorta wants the underdog hero to succeed; and the villainous house man, aka the pit boss. Each has a role to play and the stage itself, its sound and light, either adds or subtracts from the quality of the action. In too many casinos, it’s the latter. His comments reminded me of an otherworldly pianist named Sviatoslav Richter, who insisted on turning all the house lights off except for the light trained in him when he played. He would leave the audience in the dark for an interminably long 30 seconds or so before starting and no one ever knew why, or dared ask. Finally, someone did. “Surprise them,” he said.