President-Elect Donald Trump owned casinos in Atlantic City — and considered operating one in South Mississippi — and the casino industry is laying out its priorities early in hopes of getting his attention on sports betting and other key issues.
In a conference call Tuesday, American Gaming Association President and CEO Geoff Freeman listed accomplishments of the industry in 2016, including a National Hockey League franchise coming to Las Vegas, a presidential debate held in Las Vegas “and a former casino owner was elected as the next president of the United States.”
Showing how far the industry has come, he said Trump’s owning a casino was never an issue in the election.
All of these accomplishments were unlikely to have taken place even 5 or 10 years ago, and he said, “I expect this industry to be taken very seriously for years to come.”
He also sees the new president and Congress providing new opportunities and potential challenges. In a memo to Trump and his transition team, Freeman said the federal government plays an important role in the success of the casino industry.
“We look forward to working with the Trump administration and the incoming Congress on a range of critical issues, from sports betting and illegal gambling to tax reform and immigration,” Freeman said.
Among his priorities are:
▪ Sports Betting — At least $150 billion a year is wagered illegally on sports betting in the United States and the casino industry supports repealing the 25-year-old federal prohibition and giving states the opportunity to choose whether to make it legal. Freeman said he is more optimistic than he’s ever been that the prohibition against sports betting will be lifted.
▪ Illegal Gambling — The casino industry has partnered with law enforcement to expose and eliminate illegal gambling activities that help fund illegal activities such as money laundering and human trafficking and focus on illegal sports betting, black market machines, internet sweepstakes cafes, animal fighting and illegal online betting.
▪ Off-Reservation Tribal Gaming — The casino industry supports tribal casinos on or near tribal lands, but not “off-reservation,” where the tribe has no historical connections or geographic proximity
▪ Tax Reform — Freeman said the industry would like to see tax reform that lowers the high tax burden casino companies face, keeps business interest expense fully deductible and makes the research and development tax credit permanent.
▪ Immigration — The casino industry employs immigrants from around the world and depends on global consumers. He said the Obama administration has done a good job strengthening security while continuing to put out the welcome mat for visitors.
He also said the casino industry is looking for Department of Homeland Security funds to protect the 40 million people who visit Las Vegas each year and to block the use of Yucca Mountain, 90 miles from Las Vegas, as a possible nuclear waste site.