At the recent 2016 i–gaming forum in Stockholm I was asked to make the keynote presentation on the industry’s drivers and obstacles. I agreed to make the presentation but after sitting down to try and write it I wish I had not. It is always a good idea when giving a speech to make the audience feel optimistic about the future. A tall order when I could see many more obstacles than drivers!
You know the story: rising taxation, more regulation and a social responsibility policy that caused William Hill to signal a profit warning to shareholders.
The speech needed a joke. So I said “the one thing that keeps me awake at night is this” and put up a huge face of Donald Trump on the screen. It got the laugh I was looking for.
Trump is a serious presidential candidate. According to the Financial Times, bond guru Jeffrey Gundlach (with US$84 billion under management) thinks that Trump will win the Republican nomination and, ultimately, the presidency of the USA. Yet here is a man who some people see as a joke.
“I am going to build a wall, a very high wall with just one door between the US and Mexico, and Mexico will pay for the wall”. To Europeans such statements are bizarre and totally out of political character.
All of this matter to the gambling sector. The US is the largest gambling market in the world even with a restricted supply of services. There is substantial illegal gambling serving a population with a high propensity to gamble. Donald Trump has owned casinos in Atlantic City, and now he is building a deluxe hotel in Las Vegas, and talks of adding a casino to it. He is doing so during a presidential campaign. He could not care less what the anti-gambling lobby thinks, he is doing it. He has no hang ups when it comes to gambling.
When President Obama was elected our hopes for the legalisation of online gambling ran away with our imagination because he played poker once a week. But the new President was overrun by events and he faced the worst financial crisis since the 1930s.
The industry has always wanted a President that would be sympathetic to gambling, or just not opposed to it. Trump is on record as saying in 2011 that online gambling “has to happen because many other countries are doing it and like usual the US is missing out”.
If you are involved in the gambling industry, Trump is your man. He is what the industry in the US has always asked for. If elected, one would hope that the sobering responsibility of office would make him more considered in his approach. But that would not be the Donald’s style.