Some powerful folks in the American casino world are betting on Donald Trump fast-forwarding the push toward legalized sports gambling in this country.

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Inside sports business

Some powerful folks in the American casino world are betting on Donald Trump fast-forwarding the push toward legalized sports gambling in this country.

In his year-end conference call with reporters, Geoff Freeman, president of the pro-casino American Gaming Association (AGA) trade group, said Trump’s firsthand business experience within the gaming industry bodes well for a repeal of a federal law barring sports betting in most states.

“With regards to sports betting, I think that we are entering a perfect storm,’’ Freeman said.

Freeman cited interest among television broadcasters and individual team owners in repealing the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), a federal law allowing sports betting only in Nevada, Delaware, Oregon and Montana (with only Nevada and Delaware offering it).

With Trump, he added, there is an incoming U.S. president who “worked in the gaming industry and was quoted as recently as about a year ago on Colin Cowherd’s (Fox Sports) show talking about the failed law that we have today and the benefits of regulation.’’

What Trump told Cowherd in November 2015 when asked about sports betting and daily fantasy sports was: “I’m OK with it because it’s happening anyway. Whether you have it (PASPA) or you don’t have it, you have it (sports gambling).’’

Indeed, the ascension of sports betting into what Freeman calls “mainstream” acceptance took a quantum leap two years ago when NBA commissioner Adam Silver broke with predecessor David Stern in calling for its legalization.

The NBA, NHL, MLB and some NFL owners have partnered with daily fantasy sports companies FanDuel and DraftKings — which several states, including Washington, argue are akin to illegal-gaming entities.

Over the Christmas weekend, the NBA and FanDuel launched an “InPlay” mobile application that allows fans to compete against one another based off the real-time performances of players in live games. The app doesn’t award cash prizes and is seen by the league more as a way to draw eyeballs to TV broadcasts.

Still, the league using FanDuel to drive its TV business is exactly the type of mainstream acceptance Freeman mentioned.

Not long ago, leagues cringed at even a whiff of gambling coming near their games. MLB has a century-long history of banning players associated with gambling — from “Shoeless” Joe Jackson to Pete Rose — while the NFL did the same with Paul Hornung, Alex Karras and Art Schlichter.

In 2006, the NHL was engulfed in a major New Jersey gambling investigation involving Rick Tocchet that even dragged Wayne Gretzky and his wife, actress Janet Jones, through the ensuing scandal.

Now, the NHL has become the first major sports league to put a team in Las Vegas, with the NFL potentially close behind. And the NBA — less than a decade since its own gambling scandal involving referee Tim Donaghy — is expected to eye Las Vegas as well once it launches an expansion process within the next year or so.

One person not thrilled by recent events is Arnie Wexler, a onetime compulsive gambler-turned-counselor and co-author of the book “All Bets Are Off: Losers, Liars and Recovery From Gambling Addiction.” Wexler dismisses the argument used by leagues that since sports gambling is inevitable, they might as well push to regulate it.

All they really want, he adds, is a slice of the estimated $95 billion in annual money wagered mostly illegally on sports in this country.

“It’s all hypocrisy on their part,’’ Wexler said.

A 2015 report by Gambling Compliance, a global gaming-research firm, estimated legalized sports betting in America could produce $12.4 billion in annual revenue. That would roughly equal all revenue generated by the NFL.

Wexler can’t understand how a century’s worth of concern over the potential impact of gambling on the “integrity” of pro sports is seemingly being forgotten.

“If you have betting on their games, then where’s the integrity?’’ he said. “It’s all about putting money in their pocket.’’

Wexler and his wife, Sheila, run a national 1-888-LASTBET hotline for those seeking help for gambling addiction. He likens daily fantasy sports to a “gateway drug” he says enabled teens and young adults to get hooked on other forms of gambling.

Wexler also has experience with president-elect Trump. For 15 years, Wexler and his wife trained hundreds of employees from Trump’s casino operations in Indiana and New Jersey on recognizing compulsive-gambling addiction in both customers and themselves.

“We’ve had many workers come to us for help,’’ he said. “One of the biggest secrets in the industry is there’s a bigger problem percentage-wise behind the table than in front of the table.’’

Wexler won’t opine on which way he sees Trump heading in terms of policy.

But for now, Wexler agrees with AGA president Freeman that sports betting has gone mainstream. And when it comes to changing laws, Freeman says mainstream acceptance might be his organization’s biggest tool.

“The expansion of gaming outside of Nevada normalized the business,’’ Freeman said of legalized gambling in general. “It brought it to St. Louis and Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Columbus. It brought it to all of these markets around the country. And what we’ve learned is … the markets in which we do business are the places in which we have the fewest critics.

“Our critics tend to reside in places where gaming does not operate.’’

Those critics likely beg to differ.

And given the gathering momentum to expand legalized sports gambling, they might not have to wait long to see Freeman’s claims put to the test.