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AGA urges Trump to intervene on SBA rules excluding gaming

Updated April 8, 2020 - 3:01 pm

The American Gaming Association is appealing directly to President Donald Trump to intervene in the Small Business Administration’s ruling that prohibits small gaming companies from benefiting from loans authorized in Congress’s $2 trillion aid package.

In a letter dated Wednesday, AGA President and CEO Bill Miller urged Trump “to address a significant problem with the Paycheck Protection Program’s Interim Final Rules” unveiled by the SBA on Thursday.

The president last month signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act into law. The $2 trillion in aid the act provides includes $349 billion in forgivable loans to small businesses to pay their employees during the COVID-19 crisis.

But according to eligibility rules drafted by the SBA, the CARES Act won’t allow companies that generate more than one-third of their revenue from gaming to apply for loans.

The same regulations also prohibit companies involved in the state’s legal marijuana industry to benefit.

“Making SBA resources available to size-eligible gaming businesses is the right thing to do,” Miller’s letter to Trump says. “As it stands, the policy discriminates against these mainstream businesses and, more importantly, the hundreds of thousands of employees who rely on gaming for their livelihood.”

Miller first called attention to the ineligibility issue last week.

He said small gaming businesses deliver $52 billion a year and support 350,000 jobs in construction, manufacturing, retail and wholesale firms.

The AGA said 987 of 989 commercial and tribal casinos properties have closed their doors in the past month to slow the spread of COVID-19. More than half of the 1.8 million jobs gaming supports are at nongaming businesses — restaurants and local shops — which are all dramatically affected by a local casino’s closure.

In Nevada, Gov. Steve Sisolak on March 17 ordered the state’s casinos, including small operations at convenience stores, supermarkets and taverns closed through mid-April, then extended the order to at least April 30.

Copies of Miller’s letter to Trump also were sent to Nevada’s congressional delegation, which responded with a letter signed by all six members.

“We are extremely disappointed that the SBA released this guidance not only over our repeated objections, but also in contravention of explicit congressional intent that any business should be eligible if it has 500 or fewer employees,” the delegation’s letter said.

“Small businesses across the country are struggling because of the impact of COVID-19 and Congress passed the CARES Act to ensure that small businesses can keep people employed and that our economy quickly recover from the pandemic,” it said. “Excluding certain industries based on regulations from previously existing programs jeopardizes small businesses, workers, and the communities that depend on them.”

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter.

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