Insiders Believe Trump May End Sports Betting Prohibition

Insiders Believe Trump May End Sports Betting Prohibition


Over the last two years, we covered the subject of legalized sports betting in several articles:

These pieces go back to a simpler time; back when Chris Christie could still be described as a “presidential hopeful”. When we last discussed the topic, it seemed that the movement was beginning to stagnate, but a lot has changed since then. Recently, the issue has been brought to the forefront once again.
On January 20, Donald Trump will become the first US president who has ever owned a casino, and conservative think tank R Street Institute thinks he might be the right man to help expand legalized sports-betting beyond Nevada, Oregon, Delaware, and Montana.
On December 6, Steve Titch, a representative for the organization, wrote:

“The federal deficit has hit $20 trillion. Entitlement spending continues to grow… President-elect Donald Trump has proposed a $1 trillion infrastructure plan while promising to reduce marginal tax rates on individuals and businesses. Meanwhile, states and cities are bumping up against their own fiscal issues, especially in regard to pension obligations. Gambling revenue becomes increasingly attractive as a solution to budget challenges… The $70 million Colorado raised in 2015 from taxing marijuana sales has shown states that there is genuine economic benefit to legalizing and taxing activities that otherwise law-abiding citizens enjoy in private.

…There’s no reason to believe that expanding prohibition is on his agenda, or that [Trump] would be opposed to greater liberalization, especially if it can create or increase revenue streams for his economic agenda.”
The additional tax revenue from gambling could go a long way towards fixing America’s budgetary constraints. estimated underground gambling revenue is somewhere between $150 billion and $400 billion annually, which means, assuming it was taxed at a standard-rate of 25%, legalized gambling could generate an additional $37-100 billion per year for the United States. It’s an appealing number, but not everyone is in favor of the proposition.
One of the biggest obstacles is pushback from management at the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL and NCAA. Historically, leagues have distanced themselves from gambling, in an attempt to avoid the appearance of impropriety. But tides have changed over the past few years. In 2014, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver wrote a New York Times op-ed in favor of ending the prohibition on sports betting.

“Despite legal restrictions, sports betting is widespread,” wrote Silver. “It is a thriving underground business that operates free from regulation or oversight. Because there are few legal options available, those who wish to bet resort to illicit bookmaking operations and shady offshore websites.”

“There is an obvious appetite among sports fans for a safe and legal way to wager on professional sporting events. Mainstream media outlets regularly publish sports betting lines and point spreads… In light of these domestic and global trends, the laws on sports betting should be changed. Congress should adopt a federal framework that allows states to authorize betting on professional sports, subject to strict regulatory requirements and technological safeguards.”
Under Trump, a plan like the one Silver proposed is beginning to look feasible. Last week, the American Gaming Association (AGA) announced that they had already met with the President-elect to make their case. According to, the AGA wish list included “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”.
Jim Murren, CEO of MGM Resorts International, also discussed the issue with reporters at the at the National Press Club earlier this month:

“we’ve changed. This idea that sports betting somehow needs to be regulated in one state and illegal everywhere else really doesn’t reflect what’s happening today… people love to bet on sports and they love their daily fantasy sports.

…To drive this all in the underground, and wish it away, or don’t allow it to be transparent and regulated is wrong. And I am going to work with the American Gaming Association and my colleagues on this.

And not everyone agrees with me on this topic. But my view is and I hope to speak to the President-elect and to Congress on these topics let’s regulate, and let’s be consistent in our regulation and give the American public what it wants, which is this transparent and seamless connectivity between bricks-and-mortar gaming and other forms of gaming that are completely safe, if they’re regulated.”

Whether or not Trump will champion the movement is still up for debate. Many claim the choice of Jeff Sessions as Attorney General makes it seem unlikely. As a Senator, Sessions battled against online gambling in 1997, but seemed to ease-off the issue over the following decade.

But – Steve Norton, casino consultant who worked for Trump in the 80’s, told that he predicts Trump will support an end to the national prohibition for economic reasons, while leaving Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) regulation up to individual states.

For those interested in Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) legislation, you can track national progress at
[Photos via Flickr users Alan Kotok and Caitlin Reagan]