Editor’s Note: This column was written at the beginning of April. For updates on the AGA’s most recent efforts, visit AmericanGaming.org.
The U.S. casino gaming industry came into March with great momentum: American attitudes towards gaming had never been stronger, expected casino visitation was up year-over-year, and the expansion of legal sports betting continued across the country.
But instead of gearing up for a blockbuster March Madness, in a matter of days the gaming industry was moved to a complete standstill due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Because unprecedented government mandates closed all 989 commercial and tribal casinos in the country, more than 650,000 direct gaming employees are unable to go to work.
The impact goes beyond casino jobs, to the 17,000 gaming supplier employees and 350,000 American small business workers who are supported by the gaming industry. These closures endanger more than $74 billion in wages annually for our employees and their families.
When our doors close, it deeply impacts every community where we operate. Our industry supports thousands of local small businesses and more than $41 billion in annual taxes and tribal revenue-sharing that fund local hospitals, first responders and essential public services.
That’s why gaming leaders are taking action in this time of crisis to help local communities in countless ways, like donating meals to local food banks, contributing protective gloves, masks and other essential supplies to health care providers, and setting up emergency funds to support employees.
Gaming steps up because it’s the right thing to do. It’s also why Americans in record numbers support gaming, creating a deeper bench of champions for our industry when we need them most. We saw this at work during the debate over the CARES Act, the $2 trillion relief package for employees and businesses devastated by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Previous federal responses to natural disasters and financial crises have explicitly excluded gaming companies from economic assistance available to the broader business community. We worked nonstop to make sure history didn’t repeat itself. As a united industry, we ensured that the CARES Act would give gaming access to economic relief on equal terms with every impacted industry, delivering essential support for gaming employees, communities and businesses.
Specifically, the CARES Act includes relief in four key areas the AGA fought for: access to $454 billion in loans and loan guarantees to help impacted businesses, tribes and governments; important tax relief measures for gaming businesses; $8 billion in targeted aid for tribal communities; and extended benefits for furloughed casino employees.
Our work is far from done. As Congress continues to consider relief efforts, the AGA will continue to work with our members to ensure that we’re pushing for the highest-priority relief measures in each successive package. This includes ensuring government loan programs are accessible to all segments of the gaming industry, advancing measures that protect AGA members from additional economic harm and enhance financial solvency, and policies to aid the industry’s recovery over both the short and long terms.
Most importantly, the AGA is working closely with leaders at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue to stop antiquated discrimination against our industry and make sure gaming gets what it needs—and deserves.
If there’s one thing I know for certain, it’s that the gaming industry is incredibly resilient. I am confident we will emerge stronger from this crisis, with deeper connections to our communities, employees and customers. The AGA is here to see this industry through these challenging times.