AGA Writes to Donald Trump Outlining Its Gambling Positions

The American Gaming Association (AGA) has penned a memo to United States President-Elect Donald Trump, outlining what it seeks to accomplish in the coming years and seeking his administration’s support in achieving its goals. Unfortunately for online poker fans, the AGA at no point in the communication requests support for internet gambling of any sort.

The only mention of online gambling or online poker presents it in a negative light in the “Illegal Gambling” portion of the memo:

The gaming industry has forged strong ties with law enforcement to expose and eliminate illegal gambling activities, which fund large criminal enterprises involved in human trafficking, racketeering, money laundering, extortion and fraud. Our efforts focus on five key areas of illegal gambling: illegal sports betting; black market machines; Internet sweepstakes cafes; animal fighting; and illegal online betting.

Last year, AGA secured the commitment of the U.S. Justice Department to focus on illegal gambling enforcement, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation collaborates with us to solicit tips from citizens about illegal gambling activities. We look forward to working with your attorney general on this important issue that’s harming communities across the nation.

Now, I am not here to say that there are never any problems with illegal gambling or even legal gambling, for that matter. Some of those things listed above, particularly animal fighting, should certainly be stopped. Animal fighting is clearly awful and needs no explanation; things like internet sweepstakes cafes and black market machines serve only to enrich the providers of those activities and prey on the poor and under-educated.

AGA LogoBut when the only reference to online gambling/poker is in the phrase “illegal online betting,” it unnecessarily groups legal, regulated online poker with unregulated, fly-by-night, shady sites, tainting the perspective of valid poker operators in the eyes of those who do not understand the industry. The AGA uses the usual scare-terms of “human trafficking, racketeering, money laundering, extortion and fraud,” in discussing “illegal online betting,” even though it does not provide evidence of any of it.

Again, it is not that things like money launder and human trafficking are ok – clearly they are not – it is just that when someone reads a list such as that along with “illegal internet betting,” they can start thinking, “Holy shit, online poker is BAD!”

Online poker isn’t bad. It’s a fun game that people play for money, usually just a few cents or a few dollars at a time. But in refusing to make an sort of differentiation between regulated, legal online poker and “illegal online betting,” the AGA is being irresponsible and misleading.

Then again being irresponsible and misleading is how Donald Trump and his team got to the position they are in, so more power to the AGA, I guess.

The AGA is on the right track in the next section of the memo, where it pushes for the legalization of sports betting in the United States.

“The United States’ approach to sports betting lags behind Europe and other countries that effectively regulate a legal market,” the AGA wrote. “Today, at least $150 billion a year is wagered illegally on sports betting in the United States, and a report released this fall concluded that, ‘[r]ather than setting the standard, the United States is on par with Russia and China, having forced a groundswell of black-market gambling by prohibiting the popular pastime of sports betting.’”

It continues, adding that the National Basketball Association supports this position. This is true. About two years ago, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver wrote an op-ed for The New York Times, saying that it was time for sports betting to come out of the shadows in the U.S. He said:

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. Voters in New Jersey overwhelmingly voiced their support for legal sports betting in a 2011 referendum. Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey recently signed a bill authorizing sports betting at local casinos and horse racetracks, a law the N.B.A. and other leagues have opposed — and a federal court has blocked — because it violates Paspa.

Outside of the United States, sports betting and other forms of gambling are popular, widely legal and subject to regulation. In England, for example, a sports bet can be placed on a smartphone, at a stadium kiosk or even using a television remote control.

Silver added, “Congress should adopt a federal framework that allows states to authorize betting on professional sports, subject to strict regulatory requirements and technological safeguards.”

So in as far as sports betting goes, the AGA is on the right track.

On internet poker, though, the organization has chickened out, though this is nothing new.

Donald Trump has expressed support in the past for sports betting and daily fantasy sports, but when it comes to online gambling, he has largely been non-committal. Speaking with the Associated Press this fall, he said, “I have a lot of friends on both sides of this issue.”

And that’s one problem -among many – with our future President. He makes decisions based on how they will benefit him and his friends. Policy – online poker or otherwise – should not be made by weighing which friends are on one side of the issue and which friends are on the other. In the end, I think we can count on Trump coming down on the side which stands to enrich his family the most.

Now, before you say, “Well, Donald Trump has owned a bunch of casinos, so he is well educated on gambling,” remember that he was a shitty casino owner whose properties lost tons of money while competitors succeeded. He left creditors, investors, and contractors holding the bag while he personally made millions from failing businesses.

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