Online poker - and gaming in general - has a lot of enemies in the United States government, but the most powerful man in public office might just be a key friend. However, as President Donald Trump got to work in his first full week, his nominee for Attorney General - Senator Jeff Sessions - had some curious things to say about online gaming during his confirmation hearings.
Sessions, who was being grilled by long-time Trump and gambling opponent Senator Lindsey Graham, was asked to give his opinion on the Wire Act. In 2011, the Department of Justice ruled that the law was only limited to sports betting, which paved the way for states like New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware to legalize online gaming. Sessions suggested that the rules seemed "unusual" and that he would "revisit it or make a decision about" the law in the near future. It's worth noting that back in 2011, Sessions was opposed to the law. That has made a number of online players nervous that the small amount of progress that has been made over the last few years could be reversed.
However, we don't know if Sessions was just trying to appease Graham, who is looking to have that law overturned, or whether Sessions will actually make this a priority. A lot of things are said to appease the committees during the hearings just so that the nominees can get approved.
In general, the mood for online players had been slightly optimistic with Trump moving into the White House. After all, having a man who was previously invested in casinos as the president should be a positive advancement for the industry. Back in 2011, Trump said that online gambling was something that the country had to look into as players were just feeding money to other countries. That's something he is very much against. His whole campaign was about putting America first and that could eventually include online poker.
While there are a lot of Americans who play, the companies who host are often located somewhere else and that means that those jobs and those tax revenues benefit places outside of the United States. As Trump has focused on early with car companies and manufacturing jobs, he wants that investing done in the United States.
Sessions might not be the only detractor in Trump's camp, though, as Vice President Mike Pence was quite the anti-gambling advocate when he was governor of Indiana. Like Sessions, it's debatable how much Pence will be involved in policy, though. Las Vegas bigwig Sheldon Adelson is also a major donor in the Republican Party, so he will likely continue to fight against online gambling. He feels that his Las Vegas properties could potentially lose out on foot traffic if online gambling is legalized.
Forbes has suggested that the key to the future of online gambling could be in Trump's inauguration speech where he focused on economic protectionism and vowed to stop other countries getting rich off America's back. There are few industries where that happens more than online poker. Those who don't live in Nevada, New Jersey or Delaware can't legally play online, which means they are sending their money to countries in Central America where online betting companies can set up shop and give their product a platform.
If Trump focuses the spotlight on them like he has with the auto industry it's likely that he would help legalize it in America - even if it is not a huge priority right now.