The US Small Business Administration (SBA) recently had a change of heart regarding small American casinos and their ability to access COVID-19 relief funds. Late last week the SBA shifted its existing, and overly moralistic, policy of preventing businesses that derived more than half their revenue from regulated gambling.
Under the new terms, small casinos across the country can qualify to receive low and no-interest loans, and other forms of relief, to help them continue paying staff during COVID-19-related closures. As of this week, those businesses can receive up to $10 million in relief funds. Under the terms of the deal, a full 75 percent of that sum will be forgiven if it’s used to pay staff that would otherwise be laid off.
The move is extremely good news for the nation’s 1,000 small casinos, which include tribal gaming operations. According to a report on CalvinAyre.com, as many as 650,000 casino workers have been furloughed or laid off since the crisis took hold in March.
It’s likely that there was plenty of behind-the-scenes lobbying in Washington by trade groups such as the American Gaming Association (AGA) to help make this move happen. Not surprisingly, AGA President and CEO Bill Miller applauded the move saying, “In the nearly one month since the CARES Act was enacted to provide economic relief to blunt the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the American Gaming Association and our allies have fought tirelessly to correct the Small Business Administration’s antiquated policy that precluded gaming companies from qualifying for loans through the Paycheck Protection Program. We are pleased that the new regulatory guidelines released today make small gaming companies eligible for this critical program just as Congress has replenished its funding.”
The question now is whether funds will be available and when small casinos will actually see relief from the troubled program.