SBA revises guidelines on forgivable loans, but AGA calls the resolution a ‘half-measure’ Howard Stutz, CDC Gaming Reports · April 15, 2020 at 7:30 am The Small Business Administration revised its guidelines Tuesday covering small companies that service the casino industry, allowing certain businesses to apply for part of the $349 billion in forgivable Paycheck Protection Program loans. However, the American Gaming Association noted that certain small gaming companies that closed to comply with government orders over the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, “will continue to be denied access to this critical lifeline to support their employees.” AGA CEO Bill Miller, in a statement, called the resolution a “half-measure.” “While these changes represent some progress, they fall woefully short of fully addressing antiquated, discriminatory policies that have, to date, restricted small gaming companies from accessing critical loan support made available through the CARES Act,” Miller said. The change in guidelines followed a more than a week of lobbying by the Washington D.C.-based trade organization and bipartisan members of Congress from both commercial casino and tribal gaming states. The program, established under the $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Review, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) did not pertain to certain small businesses with less than $1 million in total revenue and less than 50% of that revenue coming from legal gaming. Those businesses would be disqualified from applying for the forgivable loans. Nevada Senator Jacky Rosen, a Democrat, said the SBA took “minimal action” and that a “statutory fix” will be required to assist the gaming businesses. “While SBA has taken a step forward on this issue, a rule that excludes our gaming manufacturers and casinos is wholly insufficient,” Rosen said. “Nevada’s small businesses represent the heart of our economy, and I’ll continue working to ensure gaming small businesses are fully included in COVID-19 relief.” Miller wrote a letter to President Donald Trump last week 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. Trump was asked about the matter last Wednesday at his daily coronavirus press briefing. The matter was brought up again during Monday’s briefing in a question to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. Nevada Representative Dina Titus, whose district includes the Strip, said the CARES Act was enacted to provide relief to small businesses and their employees. “The Trump Administration’s attempt to arbitrarily pick winners and losers is detrimental to the recovery,” said Titus, a Democrat who is co-chair of the Congressional Gaming Caucus. “It’s obvious that President Trump and Secretary Mnuchin do not understand the struggles of working people employed by smaller gaming establishments in Las Vegas and across the country. That’s why I will soon introduce legislation to ensure that none of these small businesses is prevented from receiving relief.” Miller said the AGA will continue to seek changes that would allow the participation of all small gaming operations. “As Congress seeks to put additional resources behind the PPP, we look forward to working with them to make it clear that ‘we are all in this together’ by rejecting the SBA’s dangerous view that gaming employees don’t deserve assistance during this unprecedented crisis,” Miller said. Congressional members wrote letters of concern to Trump, Mnuchin, and SBA Administrator Jovita Carranza. Miller said the AGA was “grateful for the leadership of a significant group of bipartisan, bicameral members of Congress who have advocated tirelessly for equal treatment of small commercial and tribal gaming operations in their communities.” In a previous letter to Carranza on April 2, Miller said the old guidelines left out the 350,000 small, local business jobs that service the nation’s casino industry. Nearly 1,000 commercial and tribal casinos in 43 states have been shut down by the coronavirus pandemic. It is unclear how long the closures will last. 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.