The 2020 US presidential election has been a massive revenue driver for sportsbooks and oddsmakers. Al Jazeera estimates $1 billion has already been wagered on the election’s outcome–double the 2016 election. Donald Trump and Joe Biden may be sportsbook fodder now, but their respective pasts give us some strong clues about their different visions for the United States’ sports betting landscape. Based on our research, Trump favors more restrictions, and Biden seems to favor well-regulated legal sports betting. Let’s take a closer look.
Donald Trump, Sports Betting, And The Wire Act
Readers may think that Donald Trump’s past casinos would make him a staunch supporter of sports betting. Before he became president, Trump was a sports betting supporter. In 1993, he criticized the governor of New Jersey for not legalizing sports betting when he had the chance. Trump clearly used to be in favor of sports betting legalization. But much has changed in 27 years. Donald Trump is a Republican president now and he has new political concerns to weigh.
One of those political considerations was pleasing one of his largest donors, Sheldon Adelson. Adelson has raised almost $84 million for his Trump re-election Super Pac, $75 million of which came from him and his wife. Adelson has also advised Trump on multiple issues, from foreign policy in the Middle East to online gambling. His online gambling advice is critical to understanding the Trump administration’s opposition to online gambling.
In 2011, the Department of Justice issued an opinion that decided the Wire Act only applied to sports wagers. The Wire Act prevents interstate transactions on sports wagers. It’s why Colorado bettors can’t bet at Pennsylvanian sportsbooks. Sending money across state lines for a bet on sports is illegal because of this act. However, online lottery tickets, online poker, and online casinos were fair game.
But that opinion was reversed in 2018. The Trump administration decided the Wire Act’s jurisdiction wasn’t limited to preventing sports wagers from crossing state lines. It decided that all interstate gambling was fair game for Wire Act restrictions. That means all online gambling is endangered by Trump’s Justice Department. If a bettor wagers in Pennsylvania, but the sportsbook’s server is in New York, that would be an illegal bet. It’s alarming for online betting proponents, but it’s conveniently fantastic news for Adelson’s land-based casino empire.
Why Online Sports Betting Is In Danger Instead Of Gone
The Department of Justice’s opinion is being challenged in court. The New Hampshire Lottery Commission sued the DOJ and won. A District Judge ruled the Wire Act was limited to sports gambling. That overturned the Department of Justice’s 2018 decision. The DOJ will likely appeal the decision, but online sports betting is safe for the moment.
But if the DOJ appeals the decision, its decision could be upheld. That would be a disaster for online gambling across the country. It would give the federal government the ability to shut down online gambling if it chose to. That doesn’t mean another Trump administration would take such a drastic measure. It also doesn’t mean it would go unchallenged. But it would cast a cloud over a sports betting only a few years into legalization.
Joe Biden’s Sports Betting Snippets
While Donald Trump’s administration has taken steps against online gambling, Joe Biden has been quiet on the issue. Sports betting isn’t one of the hot topic buttons of the election. Unless a sports betting scandal pops up before the polls close, it probably won’t be, either.
Biden’s clearest statement on sports betting has been a mild criticism of the 2018 DOJ opinion. His campaign sent a statement to CDC Gaming Reports outlining his position. Biden considers the Trump DOJ opinion “unnecessary restrictions.” He’s also tepidly endorsed a bipartisan bill to create federal guidelines for sports wagering. While he hasn’t taken a strong stance one way or the other, his limited statements sound like they favor federal regulation of sports betting. However, that doesn’t mean federal legalization. A Senate bill would create minimum guidelines for states who want to legalize sports betting.
However, one issue to watch as this bill professes is its stance on college sports. A federal sports betting guideline bill could set guidelines to protect the integrity of college sports. But it could also ban betting on college games altogether. The bill was introduced in the Senate in 2019 and has many committees to survive before reaching a vote. We don’t know what the timeline is for it, either. However, it’ll likely come up in the next presidency.
Biden has signaled support for federal and state partnerships in sports betting legalization. However, he hasn’t made specific policy proposals or endorsed or opposed specific sports betting legislation. Biden’s not going to spend political capital making waves in sports betting. He has enough of an uphill battle with healthcare and the pandemic if he wins. Sports betting and other online gambling issues will likely be an ancillary issue during the beginning of a Biden term.
Where The Candidates Stand On Sports Betting
Biden isn’t proposing drastic changes to the sports betting industry. He seems to lean in favor of federal sports betting guidelines. However, he hasn’t come out strongly for or against the bill being considered for it. We also don’t know important details about the bill working its way through the Senate–particularly its stance on college sports betting. However, the bill may not even make it out of committee, either. Regardless, the next important bill concerning sports betting will likely come from the Senate rather than the presidency.
In contrast, the Trump administration has already moved to limit online sports betting and other forms of online gambling. One of his largest donors runs land-based casinos and his donations suggest he sees a way to stifle online competition through a second Trump term. The 2018 Wire Act Opinion could limit online gambling. It could also disrupt mobile sports betting by making a wager illegal if it’s placed in one state and processed in an out-of-state server. If Trump’s DOJ wins its appeal and possible Supreme Court case, online gambling could see a massive disruption.
Although he’s not a firebrand ally, Biden’s presidency will likely be less disruptive to mobile sports betting and online gambling. His comments so far suggest he’d continue allowing states to legalize sports betting, but have federal guidelines in place to implement minimum industry standards. His Justice Department appointees probably won’t uphold Trump’s 2018 opinion on the Wire Act. Mobile sports betting and online gambling will likely operate similarly with few new challenges to it under a Biden presidency. However, his future comments will have to bear these conclusions out. We won’t know the full extent of either candidate’s views on online gambling and sports betting until one of them is elected.