On Nov. 3, either Donald Trump will win re-election, or Joe Biden will take over office and become the 46th president of the United States. In this two-part series, PokerNews will gaze into the crystal ball and try to divine what effect either candidate’s victory will have on the future of online poker in the U.S.
Based on his established track record over the last four years, it looks like a Donald Trump victory in the election would be a clear negative for the future of online poker in the U.S.
What about his opponent, the favored Joe Biden?
Thinking Back to 2011
In this case, there isn’t as much to go off as the precedent set by the Trump Administration’s re-interpretation of the Wire Act.
The aforementioned revisiting changed a previously published opinion from the Department of Justice dating to 2011.
“The text of the Wire Act and the relevant legislative materials support our conclusion that the Act’s prohibitions relate solely to sports-related gambling activities in interstate and foreign commerce,” wrote Assistant Attorney General Virginia A. Seitz.
That allowed online poker to fall outside the bounds of the Wire Act and paved the way for the growing legalized U.S. market as we know it today, which has four states actively spreading online poker with a fifth, Michigan, set to begin in the near future.
It’s worth noting that the sitting president in 2011 was Barack Obama, which means Biden was vice president during this sea change that enabled the ball to get rolling. That doesn’t necessarily mean Biden will be all in on iGaming legislation at the federal level, especially in the current environment that has far more pressing issues, but it’s at least an encouraging sign.
More Recent, Concrete Hints
Biden has recently gone on the record with some quotes that offer some reason for optimism with regard to his attitude to possible expansion of iGaming legislation.
In December, his campaign released a statement during his visit to Las Vegas saying he “doesn’t support adding unnecessary restrictions to the gaming industry like the Trump Administration has.”
Another quote posted in a recent story from Online Poker Report runs along the same lines:
“I would reverse the White House opinion that was then reversed and overruled by the court. The court is correct. That should be the prevailing position.”
Possible Snowball Effect
iGaming industry expert Steve Ruddock told PokerNews that if Biden is elected, a new attorney general will be installed and it’s unlikely the new AG would be interested in investing time and resources into yet another re-interpretation of the Wire Act.
Most likely, they’d just direct the government to drop the case, meaning the feds would get out of the states’ hair on the issue and let them do as they please.
“It’s not realistic to hope that either candidate would do anything to legalize online gambling at the federal level,” wrote Dustin Gouker for OPR. “However, restoring the status quo, ending federal meddling and leaving matters up to the states would constitute a win at this point in time.”
iGaming legislation has picked up an incredible amount of steam in recent years thanks in large part to the 2018 Supreme Court decision that allowed sports betting outside of Nevada. Online sports betting was a natural offshoot of that as operators looked to maximize their profits, and 13 states to date have legalized online sports betting.
And as Ruddock pointed out, the current momentum continuing would create something of a snowball effect. The more states that legalize online gambling of any kind, the more difficult it is for the federal government to put a stop to things with a Wire Act interpretation like the one that came down under Trump. It’s a certainty that the states would fight tooth and nail to hang onto their newfound tax revenues, as New Hampshire has taken the lead on with its ongoing lawsuit.
Whether online poker specifically would be able to take advantage is a whole different story as states focus on more lucrative verticals of sports and casino. However, the door would at least be cracked and a Biden presidency wouldn’t be trying to slam it shut.