New congressional push seeks to help small gaming businesses left out of SBA program Howard Stutz, CDC Gaming Reports · April 18, 2020 at 3:09 am Nevada’s congressional delegation, with support from other gaming state representatives, is proposing legislation that would make additional gaming businesses eligible to receive forgivable loans from the Small Business Administration. Hundreds of small Nevada businesses – those with less than $1 million in total revenue and less than 50% of that revenue coming from legal gaming – were disqualified from applying for the $349 billion in Paycheck Protection Program loans that were part of the $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Review, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act). The businesses, which have small gaming operations, were closed along with nearly 1,000 casinos in 43 states by governors, tribal governments, and regulators in an attempt to slow the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. Other businesses that service the casino industry were also hurt financially by the shutdown. Even after the Treasury Department and the SBA made changes to the language that qualified businesses for the loans, the American Gaming Association termed the effort a “half-measure” that fell “woefully short of fully addressing antiquated, discriminatory policies.” Under the proposed legislation, legal gaming small businesses would have full access to SBA loan and grant programs created by the CARES Act and prior coronavirus relief legislation. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nevada “The SBA’s discriminatory regulations have prohibited hundreds of companies from accessing this relief,” said Senator Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nevada. “This legislation will ensure that the Silver State’s small gaming businesses will finally be afforded the same lifelines as everyone else.” Representative Dina Titus, D-Nevada, blamed the Trump Administration with “hurting Las Vegas” by preventing small gaming businesses from gaining relief. “The people who work at these small businesses are struggling right now and it’s shameful that the Treasury Department would try to ignore the intent of Congress,” Titus said. “The legislation I’m introducing in the House will help make sure that small gaming businesses will get much-needed relief. I’m grateful to work with the entire Nevada delegation to get this done.” Cortez Masto and Senator Jacky Rosen introduced the legislation in the Senate, which is also sponsored by Senator Michael Bennet, D-Colorado. Titus’s bill was co-sponsored by Nevada’s three other congressional representatives, along with House members from Mississippi and Arizona. Representative Dina Titus, D-Nevada The original SBA guidelines blocked any business that derived one-third of its annual revenue from legal gambling from obtaining a loan. The language was changed would allow “small casinos” to qualify but under the less than 50% of revenue coming from legal gaming. The revisions didn’t help Andrew Donner, the owner of Timbers hospitality group in Las Vegas, who told The Nevada Independent he couldn’t qualify. “We were cautiously optimistic that we would be treated fairly,” said Donner, who operates seven taverns in Clark County and employs approximately 250 workers. “They actually made it worse, because they didn’t have the million-dollar limitation in the first round.” Before the changes were made, AGA CEO Bill Miller wrote a letter to President Donald Trump asking him to intervene in the matter, saying “hundreds of thousands of employees who rely on gaming for their livelihood” were left out of the process. The Washington D.C.-based AGA, via Twitter, thanked Cortez Masto and Rosen with “introducing the Equal Access to COVID-19 Relief Act, which will ensure that small gaming businesses receive the same support from the CARES Act as all other industries, restoring Congressional intent.” Early on, the AGA lobbied SBA Administrator Jovita Carranza. Older guidelines left out the 350,000 small, local business jobs that service the nation’s casino industry. According to the AGA, more than half of the 1.8 million jobs gaming supports are at non-gaming businesses, such as restaurants and local shops, all of which are dramatically affected by a local casino’s closure. In many states, the AGA said gaming pays among the highest tax rates of any industry, with “$10.7 billion in gaming taxes and tribal revenue share payments that support fundamental and critical programs from infrastructure to education.” Howard Stutz is the executive editor of CDC Gaming Reports. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.