While his Super Bowl interview with FoxNews’s Bill O’Reilly made news in the political sphere, U.S. President Donald Trump discussed the future of American sports betting in a less-publicized interview the same day.
During a Super Bowl Sunday interview with Westwood One’s Jim Gray, Pres. Donald Trump discussed legalizing sports gambling on a national basis. President Trump said he was open to all considerations and he would be discussing the issue with sports commissioners in the coming year.
The president’s remarks were vague, but they represent the most positive statement in history by a US president on the subject of sports gambling.
Trump’s remarks indicate he has paid attention to the ongoing discussion involving American sports commmissioners like Adam Silver and Rob Manfred, who have indicated varying levels of support for federal legalization and regulation of sportsbooks.
President Trump’s Sports Betting Remarks
When asked by Jim Gray about his thoughts on legal sports betting, President Trump said, “What I’d do is sit down with the commissioners. I would be talking to them, and we’ll see how they feel about it. Some would not want it, I’ve read others maybe do. I would certainly want to get their input and get the input from the various leagues.”
“It will be studied very carefully.”
The PASPA Law
The issue Jim Gray discussed was the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) of 1992. The bill was championed by the various sports leagues (NFL,MLB,NBA) in 1992, in an attempt to ban sports betting on a 50-state basis. The four states which had various forms of legal sports betting (Nevada, Oregon, Montana, and Delaware) lobbied hard for the right to keep their sports gambling apparatuses, and thus had their forms of betting grandfathered in to the law.
All other states were given 1 year to pass sports betting laws, but none did so. New Jersey’s casino industry sought to have sportsbooks legalized, but the state’s chief lawmakers refused to put the issue up for a vote. In the years since, New Jersey’s political and gaming leaders have realized that was a tremendous mistake and have sought to challenge the PASPA law. A current 5-state appeal before the US Supreme Court might strike down the PASPA law, but New Jersey has lost 5 straight legal decisions in its 5-year battle with the American sports leagues over the PASPA.
US Supreme Court Case
If the Supreme Court ruled in favor of New Jersey and the other 4 states, it would open the door for legal sports betting at the federal level. State-level bans still would be in effect, but New Jersey and other states likely would move to legalize sportsbooks in their jurisdictions. In that case, Donald Trump’s opinion would have little sway.
If the Supreme Court kept the 46-state ban in effect, then proponents of legal sports betting would have to lobby the US Congress to repeal PASPA and replace it with new regulations. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and former NBA Commissioner David Stern have given their support for federal legalization and regulations for sports betting. The stance by Silver and Stern reverses longstanding opinions on sports betting by the NBA.
Rob Manfred’s Opinion on Sportsbooks
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has said several times he might reconsider baseball’s stance on sports betting. NHL Commission Gary Bettman indicated he would go along with the other commissioners, as his sport was less affected. That leaves only NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who continues to be the lone holdout of a hardline stance. Goodell might well let the Oakland Raiders move to Las Vegas next month. Also, Roger Goodell is known for maximizing the NFL’s profits, while he is a known admirer of David Stern’s tenure as NBA boss — so he might be swayed, if it is in the financial interest of the NFL.
In the case a movement towards legalization was started in the US Congress, then having President Donald Trump’s support would be pivotal. Any bill would need to be signed by the US president, and having a former casino mogul in the White House might be key. Donald Trump owned Atlantic City casinos during the 1993 effort to legalize sports betting in New Jersey, and Trump was on-the-record at the time supporting legalized sports betting.
Donald Trump’s Likely Support
Of course, the new president was a casino owner at the time, and one who was unsuccessfully staving off bankruptcy. He likely was looking for legal sportsbooks as part of the solution to his financial woes at the time. Also, as a businessman in two Democrat-controlled states (New York and New Jersey), Donald Trump appeared to be a Democrat for most of his adult life. These days, he plays to his Republican base, so it would wrong to assume Donald Trump would support any pro-sports betting measure, simply because he did so in the past.
Donald Trump’s remarks in the Jim Gray interview were instructive, though. They show he is considering the matter and he is interested in making a deal with the sports commissioners. They are the most positive remarks sports betting proponents have heard in a while.