President Donald Trump was noncommittal on the subject of legalizing US sports betting during an interview before Super Bowl 51. But he did say he would consider addressing the issue.
What Trump said on sports betting
Trump did an interview with broadcaster Jim Gray on Westwood One radio before the big game. Gray, citing estimates from the American Gaming Association on illegal sports betting in the US, broached the subject with the new president.
Sports betting on single games is only legal in Nevada, because of federal law.
Here is the transcript of the question and his response, as first reported by CNSNews.
GRAY: “You know quite a bit, as a former casino owner, and you have a particular insight — today an estimated $5 billion will be wagered, $4.8 billion, unregulated and untaxed illegally. What is your position and thoughts on making sports gambling legal nationwide?”
TRUMP: “Well, what I’d do is I’d 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, and probably others — and I’ve read others maybe do. But I would certainly want to get their input and get the input from the various leagues, and we’ll see how they feel about it. I’d also get the input from lots of law enforcement officials, because, obviously, that’s a big step.
“So we wouldn’t do it lightly, I can tell you. It will be studied very carefully. But I would want to have a lot of input from a lot of different people.”
You can listen to Trump’s comments here:
What do the leagues want on sports betting?
We already know the casino industry wants sports betting to be legalized around the country, by the AGA’s involvement. But Trump cited two other groups he would need to talk to: Sports leagues and law enforcement.
So where do the former stand?
The NCAA, which oversees collegiate athletics, has remained steadfastly against gambling. The professional sports leagues in the US are split on the issue, at least publicly, although all of them have fought against legalization in the New Jersey sports betting case:
- The NBA and Commissioner Adam Silver have said they favor federal regulation, although that stance falls short of actively lobbying for it.
- Major League Baseball and Commissioner Rob Manfred seem to be softening their stance and moving closer to the NBA’s position.
- The NFL and the NHL are still against legal sports betting, publicly.
The latter two moving off that position might pave the way for federal action on the sports betting front.
What does law enforcement want on sports betting?
It would be difficult to gauge what law enforcement as a whole thinks about legal sports betting. But here’s what we do know.
Law enforcement is constantly chasing its own tail when trying to shut down illegal sportsbooks, both domestically and offshore. When one is shut down, another often pops up to take its place. A regulated market for sports betting would seriously dent illegal operations.
Also, a group of law enforcement officials has come together to back the AGA’s stance that a legal and regulated sports betting market is better than the current black market.
How interested is Trump in the issue?
Parsing anything Trump says can be difficult. But here’s the read:
- Trump gives us some political speak here. The idea that an issue takes more consideration is often the equivalent of a non-answer in Washington terms.
- That being said, Trump is clearly at least aware of the issue and the variables in play. He talked at length about getting the leagues involved in any effort to legalize sports betting, which would be a crucial step.
- Trump could have punted even more than he did, if he wanted to avoid the subject, but he at least showed a mild interest and a willingness to think about the issue.
For proponents of legal sports betting, Trump’s comments at least represent hope for the future.