AGA Says Urgent Additional Federal Relief Needed for Casinos and Employees

  • The association also wants tax relief for pandemic expenses and to help boost consumer travel
  • COVID-19 has cost US states over $2bn in tax revenue in just four months, according to the AGA
  • It maintains that the industry will “never accept discriminatory treatment from Washington again”
  • Digital modernization of gaming is accelerating fast, bringing with it multidimensional benefits
We Are Asking Government for Help cardboard sign
The American Gaming Association has said the gaming industry needs urgent additional federal relief in order to bounce back from the COVID-19 pandemic. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Economic fallout from pandemic still hurts

In his State of the Casinos online speech at the G2E 2020 conference Tuesday, American Gaming Association (AGA) president Bill Miller said the gaming industry needs urgent additional tax and regulatory relief from Congress as it tries to recover from COVID-19.

The AGA called for additional financial aid for casinos and their employees. In addition, the industry wants tax relief to help save gaming industry jobs, ease pandemic expenses, and help boost consumer travel.

The industry’s national trade group also tweeted out the call for urgent additional federal relief on Tuesday:

Miller said gaming has never experienced a disruption like the pandemic, which cost US states over $2bn in lost tax revenue in the first four months of the outbreak. Although 90% of commercial and tribal casinos have reopened their doors, they are operating at limited levels in order to combat the spread of COVID-19.

state budgets have been decimated by the pandemic”

The president also observed how the impact of coronavirus was not only on employment and citizens’ well-being, adding that “state budgets have been decimated by the pandemic.”

Turning the tide

In his speech, Miller noted that during previous natural or man-made disasters, the federal government “explicitly excluded gaming from economic relief.” He said that the gambling industry got “the cold shoulder” while others benefited from state support.

The head of the national trade group highlighted the unity of the gaming community as a strength in its ability to break that pattern. As the pandemic exploded, industry policymakers and commentators demanded equal treatment from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed in March 2020.

Emphasizing that gaming is a pillar of American communities, Miller insisted that workers in the industry merit compassion while small-scale businesses dependent on the activity “should not be allowed to fail”.

Breakthrough

In 2020, for the first time ever, gaming secured federal assistance to access critical capital, keep employees on the payroll, issue stabilization funds to tribal governments, and give direct economic support to gaming workers and their families.

we will never accept discriminatory treatment from Washington again”

“Now that we’ve broken through, we will never accept discriminatory treatment from Washington again,” Miller said.

Casino operators have also called for liability protection. Gaming businesses that adhere to public health guidelines should not be held liable in lawsuits brought by people who contract the virus, the AGA said.

The AGA added that it would push to help tribal nations that depend on gaming to sustain their communities. It also promised to continue to fight to ease regulatory burdens, which would include “adjusting the slot tax reporting threshold and repealing the sports betting excise and head taxes.”

Digital victories

The casinos, which have been long-time proponents of digital innovation, are now pushing for the switch to digital payment as a public health measure.

The AGA underscored the massive strides the industry is making in digital, citing recently approved digital payment rules for casinos in Nevada and Pennsylvania. Miller expects progress in New Jersey, Indiana, and Iowa next. He also noted the implementation of digital payment software at tribal casinos including Hard Rock and San Manuel.

Suppliers too are rapidly advancing innovative payments products. In July, Konami launched the industry’s first field trial of cashless slot credit in Vegas. On October 26, Aristocrat Technologies partnered with Boyd Gaming to bring its cashless wagering digital wallet technology to the operator’s Blue Chip Casino Resort Spa in Indiana. Digital wallet programs are also in the cards for Pennsylvania and Nevada.

it helps casinos follow the money, a key component of our anti-money laundering efforts”

Digital innovation not only curbs the spread of COVID-19, it also fast-tracks the modernization of gaming. The cascade effect of modernization is multidimensional, ushering in a new era of player convenience and responsible gaming, where players can fix budgets, closely monitor play, and limit playing time.

“And it helps casinos follow the money, a key component of our anti-money laundering efforts,” Miller concluded.