WASHINGTON — The head of the casino industry’s trade association expressed optimism Tuesday that incoming President Donald Trump and federal lawmakers will act to allow states to legalize sports betting.
“We are entering a perfect storm,” said Geoff Freeman, president and chief executive of the Washington-based American Gaming Association, claims Caesars Entertainment and Borgata owner MGM Resorts International as members. “I think we have everything coming together to support a regulated environment.”
Efforts by New Jersey to allow its casinos and racetracks to offer sports betting have run afoul of a 1992 law allowing such wagering in only four states: Nevada, Delaware, Montana, and Oregon.
The state has tried different ways to work around the ban, though all have been rejected by the courts. The latest effort involved an appeal by the state’s horse racing industry, which in October asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn an August decision by the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association and the four major professional sports leagues — Major League Baseball, National Football League, National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League — have repeatedly sued to stop the state, even as some of the leagues have partnered with daily fantasy sports operations and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has called legalized sports betting “inevitable.”
Freeman said the odds of having sports betting improved with the election of Trump, a former Atlantic City casino owner.
“We are optimistic,” Freeman said on a conference call with reporters. “I am more confident today than I’ve been at any point.”
During the campaign, Trump expressed support for legalized sports betting.
“I’m OK with it because it’s happening anyway,” Trump told Fox Sports in November 2015. “Whether you have it or you don’t have it, you have it.”
An estimated $150 billion a year is bet illegally on sports, according to the gaming association.
Freeman said daily fantasy sports drove up interest in sporting events to the benefit of the leagues themselves and the broadcasters who aired those games. He said he hoped to build a coalition among various groups before coming to Capitol Hill.
“The coalition that will eventually support a new law here is going to be much broader,” he said. “This will not be the casino industry on its own.”
U.S. Reps. Frank LoBiondo (R-2nd Dist.) and Frank Pallone Jr. (D-6th Dist.) have introduced legislation to allow sports betting beyond the four states.