Many things about the presidency of Donald Trump defy the normal conventional wisdom concerning elected officials and politics. His relationship with the media, his public tweets, his extensive business dealings all over the world and of course his dynamic personality are all things that can and have thrown professional prognosticator for a loop when deciding exactly where he stands or what direction he will go on an issue.
A great practical example of this dynamic is the issue of online gambling.
To both the causal gambler who occasionally enjoys the occasional casino visit or likes a hand of online blackjack or the serious player who hopes to hone his poker skills online to become the next Scott Blumstein, the administration’s decision on online gambling might be of casual interest.
But for a professional pundit, congress watcher or lobbyist knowing where an administration is going directly affects their livelihood.
This would be an easier call in the old days with a regular pol. In a normal situation one would expect that a pol who had heavy backing from supporters like Sheldon Adelson, the Las Vegas casino magnate would reflexively oppose online gambling in deference to such a big donor who has made restricting it his cause with some success. Likewise as the winds of opinion begin to shift on sports betting you would expect to see a politician’s ear very close to the shifting ground to keep the various sports leagues, a large potential source of campaign revenue happy.
In such a situation the professional pundit, congress watcher, much like an experienced gambler, could confidently predict the chances of any such legislation passing and a lobbyist for either side of these issues would be able to inform their clients where an if their efforts should be concentrated to make their goals.
In a Trump administration it’s a little more tricky.
First of all there is President Trump’s own vast wealth and name recognition. The combination of millions of his own dollars available to invest in his campaign with a name and a persona that was already well known to the public not only is his dependency on individual big donors considerably smaller, but his relationships with such men, as they previously existed, means he approaches them as an equal rather than a supplicant. Furthermore he won his first election despite being outspent both in the primaries and in the general election
Second of all there is his own history and experience with the gaming industry. Starting with no experience but understanding that a casino with a hotel can produce more profit than even the grandest lodgings without one, he studied the industry when he was ready dived in making a name for himself in the industry even being named to the World Gaming Congress Hall of Fame. This gives him a perspective on the issue that most pols would not have.
Finally added to this is the politics of the matter, according to a recent Washington Post report two allies that President Trump has clashed with in his first six months have made contrary moves. Attorney General Jeff Sessions wants to reexamine the rulings authorizing online gaming while Governor Christie on behalf of his state which has benefited from such gaming publicly urging the president to avoid such a ban. (It certainly doesn’t hurt the timing of Christie’s argument that Poker’s newest champion World Champion Scott Blumstein credits his experience in online casinos for his victory.)
For us amateurs this uncertainly of the President’s position is a source of mild amusement no different than playing a few dollars on the slots of an online casino, a bit of fun, maybe some profit but not life and death.
But for the political class seeking power and lobbyists with millions at stake for themselves and their clients, the inability to predict with certainty where President Trump stands on online gambling or any issue is a spin of the wheel that they wish they could avoid and is one of the reasons why they long for the days of business as usual.