Casino industry hopeful stimulus package helps

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The U.S. House of Representatives was set to approve Friday a massive stimulus package to help businesses and employees furloughed or laid off by the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.  

The vote comes after the Senate late Wednesday passed a $2 trillion coronavirus bill, which is the largest economic intervention in U.S. history. 

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It will provide checks to more than 150 million American households, offer loan programs to the gaming industry and dozens of other businesses and direct spending to unemployment insurance programs, hospitals, municipalities and more.  

Bill Miller, president and CEO of the American Gaming Association (AGA), applauded the bill’s passage, believing it will bring relief for employees, employers, and tribal governments.  

“This bipartisan Senate bill is an important step to preserving the gaming industry’s ability to continue to serve as a valuable job creator and community partner,” Miller said. 

According to the AGA, nearly all – 980 of 989 – commercial and tribal casinos have closed their doors. Those casinos employ 650,000 employees, who are prevented from working because of health and safety decisions made by tribal and state governments. 

In total, the AGA found these massive closures will cost the U.S. economy $43.5 billion in economic activity if casinos remain closed for two months. 

Miller said these numbers underscore the need to swift action. 

“The AGA will continue to engage with congressional and administration leadership on additional measures to respond to this rapidly evolving crisis,” Miller said.

Help for Nevada casinos 

The bill includes $500 billion in to provide loans, loan guarantees and other investments for the hardest-hit industries, including the gaming industry. Any company receiving a government loan would be prohibited from buying back stocks while getting assistance as well for an additional year. 

Companies that kept workers on the payroll despite a significant loss of revenue could get a tax credit. They could also defer paying some social security taxes. 

In Las Vegas, Wynn Resorts, MGM Resorts International and other gaming companies who continue to pay employees during the 30-day shutdown ordered by Gov. Steve Sisolak could be eligible to apply for these benefits. 

The 883-page bill also provides tax payments, increasing deductibility for interest expenses and allowing expensing of qualified property improvements, especially for the hospitality industry. 

Nevada Sen. Catherine Cortez-Masto praised gaming and hospitality executives for taking the unprecedented steps to stop the spread of the coronavirus, including by closing their doors. 

“Nevada has an economy that’s unique in the nation,” Cortez-Masto said in a speech on the Senate floor. “Our hospitality industry generates nearly $68 billion annually and supports more than 450,000 jobs across the state. So, I have been focused on standing up for our gaming, tourism and hospitality workers.” 

Cortez-Masto said it was important that they offered relief to big companies with oversight, transparency, accountability, and worker protections in place. 

“This bill does that,” she said. 

Editor’s note: This story will be updated when the U.S. House of Representatives passes the stimulus package on Friday. 

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