Now that we're down to five real candidates who can win the U.S. Presidential election the question emerges as to which is the best for gambling interests in the United States, both for bettors and those involved in the industry. This is always a difficult question because no politician generally talks about gambling in their platforms. Aside from Wayne Allen Root, who said he would legalize all gambling if elected as president from the Libertarian Party in 2008, and Ron Paul, who said he would legalize gambling since his Libertarian viewpoints dictate that adults should be able to spend money as they like, no candidate in recent memory has outright said they would ease barriers to gambling if made president.
There's no question that the two best candidates for gambling have already dropped out. Chris Christie signed a bill to make online gambling legal in New Jersey and he went to bat to make sports betting legal in the state. He did at times go against the gambling proponents in the New Jersey legislature but when push came to shove he did indeed do what was the best interest of the state and there is little question he would have done the same for the country. Rand Paul, like his father, has a strong libertarian belief system and while he may not be a gambler himself, he also made it clear that he was not prepared to block adults from betting, if that's what they wanted to do with their own dollars. Without question Jeb Bush would have been the worst candidate for the gambling sector given his actions against gambling as Florida governor, not to mention his strong connection to his brother, who is mostly to blame for the hardline actions against online gambling interests and the passing of the UIGEA. But now that Bush has dropped out that fear has disappeared.
So of the five Presidential candidates left who is the best and who is the worst?
Worst – Marco Rubio:
Marco Rubio would almost certainly be the worst candidate for gambling in the United States. Not only did Rubio, along with Lindsay Graham sponsor RAWA, Sheldon Adelson's bill to overturn the 2011 DoJ opinion that said the Wire Act only applies to sports betting, but he also has very firm ties to the Republican establishment who condemn the activity. The majority of fundamental Republicans oppose gambling (at least gambling not run by Sheldon Adelson) and they have no qualms telling Americans so. Rubio is a very close friend of Sheldon Adelson and will no doubt take his marching orders from him along with other Republican purists. There is also a concern from gambling interests that if Rubio does win and Obama is unable to appoint a successor to Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia then one of the criteria Rubio will ensure before electing a new judge is that the new chief justice opposes any form of federal gambling expansion and will put a limit on the rights of states to legalize the activity. But more than anything the fact that Rubio sponsored RAWA is reason enough for gambling proponents to oppose him vigorously in this election
2nd Worst – Ted Cruz
Cruz is a strong proponent of state's rights which is good for any state that wants to introduce gambling to help bolster state coffers but he is also an evangelical Christian and almost by definition evangelical Christians oppose gambling, along with any activity they deem to be addictive. There's no question that if Cruz is elected it will be mostly because of the evangelical vote and he will have to answer to the churches and special interests that helped elect him President. Cruz's list of supporters according to his website include James Dobson, the founder of Focus on the Family, Phil Burress, the president of Citizens for Community Values Action, Bob Vander Plaats, CEO of The Family Leader and a whole slew of evangelicals who have stated their opposition to gambling expansion. In fact as many will recall when the UIGEA was passed and there was a delay in the implementation of the regulations for the law, James Dobson released a scathing attack on George W. Bush for not implementing them fast enough. Dobson also joined forces with the NFL to oppose any suggestions at legalizing sports betting. Cruz has never talked about gambling itself and has been far more focused on issues like abortion and same sex marriage, but with the friends he is beholden to and his strong evangelical background it's almost certain that aside from Las Vegas Sands casinos, Cruz will not endorse any new gambling in the United States. Cruz's proposed support of a value added tax can also be seen as bad for the gambling industry.
3rd best . . . or worst – Bernie Sanders
Of all the U. S. Presidential candidates Sanders is the most difficult to figure out. Sanders did vote to pass the UIGEA, as did Hillary Clinton, but those votes can be ignored. The UIGEA was attached to the Safe Port Act and there was no way of voting on the two bills independently. The Safe Port Act was seen by both parties as a necessary step to protecting the borders and to oppose it would have been political suicide. In fact only Barney Frank was willing to oppose the bill solely because of the UIGEA's attachment . . . but he also wasn't standing for re-election. There was no vote or discussion on the UIGEA so Sanders' so called support can be ignored. One thing for certain is that Sanders will raise taxes big time and he'll be looking at any new revenue sources which of course includes gambling. Sanders has also stated that he opposes special interest groups which means that the NFL lobby, Sheldon Adelson and groups like Focus on The Family will get nowhere with him as president. So Sanders will probably be good for gambling interests but because he hasn't even looked at it remotely in his campaign, this is really just a guess. One thing for certain is that Sanders will be far better for gambling interests than Rubio or Cruz.
2nd best – Hillary Clinton
Like Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton is a wild card when it comes to how she'll support gambling interests if elected President of the United States. She has never made any public statements on the issue but a close friend strongly involved in the gambling industry told me that he met with Clinton on a few occasions prior to the 2008 election and she indicated she had no strong objections to gambling. In fact she subtly indicated to him that she would be friends with those in the gambling industry. That obviously doesn't mean she will pass laws to help gambling interests but rather she wouldn't throw up any roadblocks like Rubio and Cruz probably would. Clinton's voting patterns on other "morals" issues also suggest that if she is presented a bill to support online gambling and it would be of benefit to the country, she would simply sign it. More importantly, Clinton is a Democrat and the majority of actions against gambling interests were initiated by Republicans.
Some will likely point to the arrests of offshore operators including Jay Cohen in 1998 which were initiated by Attorney General Janet Reno under Bill Clinton when she stated "you can't hide online and you can't hide offshore," to refute that argument, however, many in the gambling industry at the time noted that the action may have actually prevented an earlier adoption of the UIGEA. Bill Frist had made it his mission to stop online gambling with his "click the mouse, lose the house," line and the arrests were an attempt to appease the Republicans in Congress to allow more discussion on the topic as it was fairly clear the Republicans were gaining momentum heading into the 2000 elections. More importantly, the 2011 opinion of the DoJ stating the Wire Act applied to sports betting only and the easing of restrictions to allow states to offer online gambling as they like is proof that the Democrats have grown less confrontational with the gambling industry while the same can't be said for the GOP. Given the choice of Clinton, Rubio or Cruz almost everyone aside from Sheldon Adelson in the gambling industry would most likely choose Clinton. And while Sanders may actually be better than or as good as Clinton for the gambling industry, one must be realistic and it is almost certain Clinton will be the Democratic nominee.
Best Presidential candidate for gambling interests - Donald Trump
It's hard to believe that any Republican would be better for the gambling industry than a Democrat but Trump isn't any Republican. As Trump has shown he really doesn't care what the Republican establishment thinks, he doesn't care what foreign leaders think, he tells it like he sees it and he'll probably do the same as President. Trump recently took on the Pope for his comments about building a wall with Mexico so he won't have a problem taking on Dobson or any other evangelical leaders who try to sway him against gambling. Trump is actually a fiscal conservative and not a neo-conservative and he will agree to any action that he believes will help the country economically, as long as it doesn't compromise its safety. No doubt many in the Republican party will restate their concerns about money laundering with respect to online gambling and will say it can be used for terrorist financing which is why it must be opposed. But, having owned casinos himself and having indicated in the past he supports online gambling, Trump would likely just laugh it off as fear mongering. If there is one concern about Trump it's his comments about banning citizens from other countries from emigrating to America and his stated efforts to erect barriers with other nations but it's almost certain that wouldn't entail gambling. In fact one could foresee Trump meeting with the Prime Minister of Antigua and saying "so you want us to approve online gambling from your country, what's in it for us?" It could involve erecting U.S. casinos in the country and guaranteeing jobs for U.S. citizens along with giving the U.S. its share of gambling revenues. The same holds true for China. Trump obviously is very protectionist and has already stated he'll start a trade war with China but again as a fiscal conservative he'll likely make it more of a mission to ensure that Americans are given more rather than an outright embargo. That would likely mean demanding China give up more for the U.S.'s approval including opening up Macau more to U.S. gambling interests.
Will Trump be the best president for the United States? Probably not. For all his good qualities he is boorish, angry, simplistic and confrontational. But in the area of expanding gambling in the U.S. Trump is likely the best choice.