With the United States preparing to inaugurate its first former casino owner as president, at least one Washington, D.C. lobbyist believes Donald Trump’s administration will have to consider supporting legislation to reinstate the federal ban on online gambling.

“Donald Trump will have to pay some attention to internet gaming [next] year,” predicted Shanti Stanton, a principal with Subject Matter.

“You can’t overlook that one of his biggest donors is a casino owner,” Stanton said of Las Vegas Sands chairman Sheldon Adelson. “I think he goes to Trump” asking for him to support a federal ban of internet gaming.

Adelson, a prominent Republican donor, has been an ardent supporter of implementing a federal ban, even donating money to establish the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling.

An email seeking comment from Las Vegas Sands was referred to the Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group.

“We look forward to working with the new administration and a strong bipartisan group of lawmakers to stop predatory online gambling,” John Ashbrook, a spokesman for the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling, told GamblingCompliance Friday.

The casino owner has also supported Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who authored the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA), which would ban all internet gambling.

Adelson believes online poker, table games and slots cannot be effectively regulated and threaten the integrity of the gaming industry at large.

Four states — Illinois, Georgia, Michigan and Kentucky — currently allow online lottery sales, while Nevada has legalized online poker and Delaware and New Jersey have full online casino gambling.

The modest growth of online gambling was the result of the U.S. Department of Justice issuing its interpretation of the Wire Act in 2011, saying it only applies to sports betting. That ruling opened the door to states legalizing other forms of online gaming.

Legislation to extend the scope of the Wire Act to all forms of online gambling — the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA) — remains pending in both the U.S. House and Senate.

Stanton’s comments were made Thursday near the end of an hour-long discussion titled “Emerging Leaders of Gaming — Decision 2016.” The webinar was sponsored by the American Gaming Association (AGA) and the Innovation Group.

Joining Stanton for the bipartisan event was Whitaker Askew, the AGA’s vice president of government affairs, Kirk Blalock, co-founder and principal at Fierce Government Relations, and Aurene Martin, managing partner with Spirit Rock Consulting.

Askew began the discussion by asking each of the panelists for their reaction to Donald Trump being elected president on November 8.

“This is an election that will be written and talked about for years,” Martin said. “You can’t account for the emotional [ties] that people have for a candidate.”

Blalock agreed, but acknowledged that a lot of people were shocked by the results.

“It’s clear the American voter made a choice for a new direction,” Blalock said. “They were looking for something different.”

He said American voters are now looking for results quickly.

“Obviously this was a change election,” Stanton said. “It didn’t matter that Hillary Clinton painted him as unfit … people wanted something new.”

According to the AGA, the U.S. casino industry is now a $240bn business, which supports 1.7m jobs in 40 states.

Blalock said it is clear that gaming is not just a one-city or a two-state industry anymore. He said people understand that and see it.

“They understand what it means for economic growth and job creation,” the Republican lobbyist said. “We are part of the economy getting back on track.”

When asked about the AGA’s strategy now that powerful Democratic Senator Harry Reid of Nevada is retiring, Askew said the AGA was working with Republican Senator Dean Heller of Nevada and Democrat Congresswoman Dina Titus from Nevada.

Askew said building out from there “is something that we are working on.”

Stanton acknowledged that Reid protected Nevada, but reminded people that he was not a supporter of online gambling. She said her organization has reached out to every new member of Congress.

“It was almost a perfect time for Reid to step aside,” Stanton said. “Gaming has moved from Nevada to a nationwide issue.”

In terms of how Trump’s economic policies will affect the gaming industry, Blalock said that remains unclear.

“He ran on other issues,” Blalock said. “What we can do is speculate … his policies are pro economic growth, less regulation, and job creation. He comes to the table with a knowledge of the industry.”


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