Who knows, maybe we’ll even agree on who won and government can focus on the bigger picture of COVID-19 and the economy. For gaming and untold other industries that are heading into a difficult winter in a reshaped and diminished environment, that can’t come soon enough.
The terms “unity” and “bipartisanship” tend to generate far more eye rolls and snickers than genuine enthusiasm. But without them the CARES Act would not have happened and a divided Congress punted on a much needed second round of stimulus.
At last month’s virtual G2E expo, Bill Miller, president and chief executive officer, American Gaming Association (AGA) spelled out a case for continued progress on the road to recovery, citing statistics that demonstrated the durability of the demand for brick-and-mortar casino gaming and creative approaches to testing for COVID-19 in both the tribal and commercial sectors.
Unity was the third leg of the stool. “We’re united; unity creates strength and it deepens our influence,” he said. “We saw this at work with the CARES Act back in March. During the past natural or man-made disasters, Congress and the federal government explicitly excluded gaming from economic relief. When other industries were offered a helping hand, gaming was given a cold shoulder. Many policymakers and commentators called for the same treatment in the CARES Act. We made the case that gaming was a pillar in our communities all across the country and that our workers should be entitled to the same compassion as millions of others in America. That small business depending on gaming should not be allowed to fail. And for the first time ever, gaming received federal relief to keep workers on the payroll, to access critical capital to provide stabilization funds to tribal governments, and to give direct economic support to gaming workers and their families. Now that we’ve broken through, we will never accept discriminatory treatment from Washington again.”
Miller added that industry unity will enable it to hit the ground running regardless of which party controls Congress or the White House. “More importantly, we have a focused agenda that unites our industry. One of our top priorities is to continue to build gaming champions in Washington to help us achieve our legislative goals. And that work starts with the congressional gaming caucus. Our recent success in Washington would not have been possible without the revival of the bipartisan caucus late last year under the leadership of Representatives Dina Titus (D-NV) and Guy Reschenthaler (R-PA).”
Miller was joined by Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) who made the point that the industry’s growth in the past few decades has made it more possible to reach across the aisle to craft legislation designed to help the gaming industry.
“In the past, you did not have gaming across the country and there was a stigma associated with it,” said Masto. “That has changed because other states have realized the benefit of gaming in their states. Not just as job creators but in generating revenue for state and local governments and tribal communities, which can be turned into support for education or health care or wherever they want to place it. So many states are looking for ways to raise revenue and support their constituents. Because of that, it was so much easier to reach out to our colleagues that now have some sort of gaming in their state to say, ‘listen, we’re all in this together, we’re all hard hit, we need to make sure that the gaming and hospitality industries are shored up just like everyone else.’ What is astonishing to me is the fact that we quickly put that $2 trillion CARES Act together, voted on it in bipartisan, got it to the President and got it out as quickly as we possibly could. I think people need to understand it can be done in a bipartisan way when everybody’s working together.”
To that end, Masto and Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) have teamed up to introduce the Hospitality and Commerce Job Recovery Act, which is designed to bring relief to the non-gaming side of the industry; conventions, trade shows, restaurants, travel and the full range of businesses that operate within a casino resort.
“The goal here is to focus on how we can, as we move through this pandemic in the next couple of years, give benefits and relief to the leisure hospitality industry,” Masto said. “We’re not going to come out of this recovery overnight and, particularly for our industry, we’ll be at the tail end of it. The bill focuses on how we bring different tax credits to these industries over a two-year timeframe. In working with Senator Cramer, we looked at restoring the entertainment business expense reduction that was repealed. There’s credit for individual travel expenses. There’s a combination of things here that are designed to entice some of our colleagues with similar industries to shore them, and their workers, up.”