Under current federal policies, small businesses that make a living off of legal gaming operations aren’t entitled to receive financial support through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). As the coronavirus pandemic continues to keep these companies, as well as everything else, at a standstill, they stand to suffer huge economic losses that might make recovery an impossibility. Now, the operators of the businesses, along with support from various lawmakers, are hoping they can convince President Trump to change the program and allow them to have access to PPP loans. As any politician would, Trump responded to the request with a neutral “we’ll see.”
Roll Call reports that the subject was brought up during a meeting between POTUS and several political delegates in the White House Briefing room yesterday. Congressional members from Nevada and Colorado, on behalf of the gaming industry, submitted a letter to Trump in an effort to convince him to relax the rules regarding the PPP, which is administered by the Small Business Administration (SBA) and can provide emergency loans to a myriad of companies as a result of the COVID-19 shutdown. Under the current structure of the program, gaming businesses with fewer than 500 employees are reportedly unable to apply for the loans.
A letter submitted by the delegation to House and Senate leadership yesterday reads, “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.”
The push follows a similar effort by two Senators out of Nevada, Catherine Cortez Masto and Jacky Rosen, and Colorado Senator Michael Bennet – the same Colorado representative who was part of yesterday’s delegation – that saw them lobby Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and SBA Administrator Jovita Carranza last week for more access to emergency funds for small gaming businesses. They asserted in their letter, “While there is no statutory mandate from Congress to exclude size-eligible gaming operations from receiving SBA assistance such as disaster loans, SBA regulations and standard operating procedures have previously precluded entities that receive more than one-third of their gross annual revenue from legal gambling activities from receiving these SBA loans.”
The same guidelines applied under those various SBA frameworks have been implemented for the PPP loans, something the president and CEO of the American Gaming Association, Bill Miller, calls “antiquated” and “discriminatory.” Miller has also appealed directly to the President to try to seek relief for the industry.
Whether or not the efforts by the individuals will have been worthwhile isn’t clear. For the most part, the federal government hasn’t weighed in yet on the subject, and, in the press briefing from yesterday, Trump could only offer, “I will take a look at that strongly. Nobody’s told me about it.”