Should small casinos qualify for COVID-19 relief funds?

Should small casinos qualify for federal assistance to help them cover payrolls during COVID-19-related shutdowns? That’s a question US lawmakers are posing their nation’s president as businesses of all sizes struggle to stay afloat during the unprecedented lockdown that has most Americans staying very close to home.

The issue of whether or not small casinos can qualify for funds doled out by the Paycheck Protection Program was raised this week by Senators Michael Bennet (D-Colorado) and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nevada) and Jacky Rosen (D-Nevada) in a letter to Treasury Secretary Steve Munchin. In their letter the Nevada Senators queried, “Many of our casinos — including hotels — are small businesses, and they employ many tens of thousands of employees across our state, making up the backbone of Nevada’s economy. These small businesses are located in both our large urban areas and rural communities. Furthermore, many Nevada small businesses such as restaurants, bars, grocery stores, and convenience stores operate gaming equipment and derive revenue from it,” according to a report from The Hill.

Gambling operators are barred from most forms of small business assistance doled out by the Federal Government during regular times. The Senators are hoping that the extradinary nature of these troubled times could push the Feds to show a little heart an loosen up their reluctance to help small business owners who also happen to offer gambling, or even just a couple slot machines in their convenience store.

In a letter addressed directly to US President Trump, AGA President and CEO Bill Miller asked for changes in the Small Business Administration’s rules saying, “Specifically, these interim rules rely on antiquated, discriminatory policy that renders small gaming entities ineligible to receive critical loan assistance designed to help small businesses pay their employees.”

When asked about the matter directly, Trump said he wasn’t familiar with the issue and, “I will take a look at that strongly. Nobody’s told me about it.” So, good luck small casinos, we wish you the best as you struggle to pay your furloughed employees.