The news and business sections of virtually every newspaper and every website are filled with lists of winners and losers from the federal tax bill now making its way to the White House for the President's signature. But those lists are just looking at the obvious: corporations receiving major tax cuts or homeowners in high tax states losing major deductions.
Every law has intended and unintended consequences--and this one is no exception. That's why some unexpected industries stand a chance to materially benefit from the tax bill.
By eliminating the state and local deduction (SALT), Congress is deliberately punishing high tax (i.e. Democratic) states and transferring money from one set of taxpayers (residents of middle and high-income Democratic-controlled states) to another (residents of middle and high-income Republican-controlled states). But states like New York, California, Illinois, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut and so on can't just go about their business like nothing has changed.
They're going to need new revenue--desperately. And since they can't collect it from their own local taxpayers, who are already taking a major hit, they're going to need to look elsewhere. That creates opportunity if you're in any of these industries:
Most states have already tapped the traditional gaming well too many times to see much new revenue, but if the Supreme Court rules in favor of the State of New Jersey in arguments heard earlier this month (Christie v. NCAA), each state will receive the ability to set its own laws and policies on sports betting. Expect a frenzy of legislation to quickly authorize sports betting across the country. That's useful for startups like FanDuel, which my firm Tusk Ventures is an investor in, and DraftKings, for land based casinos, for European gaming companies currently running sports books, and possibly for state lottery vendors.
And once states are passing gaming legislation, they might as well start benefiting from eSports too, which opens up another host of opportunities for media companies, video game companies and eSports startups. Casino legislation often ends up failing because by the time every special interest gets their amendment in the bill, the whole thing becomes so unwieldy it just collapses under its own weight. But states may not have the luxury of saying no this time. Anyone in an esports or gaming startup should be looking closely at opportunities that will emerge in the next twenty four months and if you've been toying with the idea of creating something new in the space, this is a good time to do it.
2. Privately Funded Infrastructure
While states can borrow money to pay for capital spending, the amount each state needs to upgrade its roads, bridges, tunnels, university campuses, schools, prisons and so on vastly outweighs what they can access from the capital markets (or expect from Washington if an infrastructure bill does pass next year). In the early-mid 2000s, public private partnerships were the rage, with private infrastructure funds paying cities and states for the right to run (and profit from) roads, lotteries and other assets.
Those deals fell out of favor for a variety of reasons (the recession, bad PR for some politicians who approved them) but they may now come back with a vengeance. This creates opportunity for infrastructure funds, pension funds, private equity funds and anyone with the ability to help governments cover the costs of building and maintaining local infrastructure. If you're looking for a place to invest all of your gains from that bitcoin investment you made in 2015, an infrastructure fund may be a good place to do it.
States are rapidly moving to legalize cannabis for either medicinal or recreational use already. With massive revenue shortfalls on the way, the incentive to legalize only grows stronger. And once one state starts seeing new revenue from cannabis dispensaries, all of its neighbors are going to quickly follow suit (using the same "why should we lose money from our own taxpayers to New Jersey/ Indiana/ Oregon?" arguments that led to casinos across the country).
And beyond gaming, infrastructure and cannabis, if you own a business that can help a city or state generate new revenue (without it coming directly from the pockets of the voters), you're going to find a receptive audience. For now. Once power shifts back to the Democrats (probably sooner than later), the SALT deduction will probably return too and states won't be quite as desperate. For smart entrepreneurs, the moment to strike is now, before the politics change again.