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Gaming, tourism groups positive about relief package plan

Updated March 27, 2020 - 8:25 am

Gaming and tourism industry groups expect casino operators to see a major boost from a $2 trillion stimulus package, set for a House vote Friday.

The bill would set aside roughly $500 billion for companies, states and local and tribal governments. Nevada casinos, hotels and tourism businesses would be eligible to apply for assistance designed to protect workers from layoffs and keep large companies solvent.

Some industry associations say there could be improvements made to the bill, but overall the response has been overwhelmingly positive.

A Wednesday statement from the American Gaming Association, which had been pushing for the gaming industry to be included in a stimulus package for weeks, said the bipartisan Senate bill is “an important step” to preserve the industry’s ability to serve as a job creator and community partner.

The association estimates direct casino employment in the state at 206,000.

Impact on Nevada workforce

Culinary Local 226 spokeswoman Bethany Khan called the stimulus package a step in the right direction and commended it for barring union-busting.

But it’s “not the bill our unions and workers would have written,” she said.

The relief plan does not guarantee 14 paid sick days or health care for all workers.

“Millions of laid-off Americans will start losing their company health insurance,” Khan said. “During this global crisis, companies that are getting taxpayer money should be required to keep their laid-off taxpayer employees covered.”

She said the Culinary union, which represents about 60,000 Las Vegas workers, will “continue to call on Congress to protect workers’ health care.”

Last week, Gov. Steve Sisolak ordered all Nevada casinos to shut down for 30 days. On March 20, he mandated that all nonessential businesses temporarily shutter until at least April 16.

The closures are meant to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and save lives, but they have led to furloughs and layoffs and may have long-term consequences for the local economy and the tourism industry.

Nevada casinos

It’s unclear whether any Las Vegas-based casino operators will apply for assistance. Las Vegas Sands Corp. said it definitely will not.

Las Vegas Sands Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson “made calls to Washington to push for investments in small and medium-size businesses, as he realizes these businesses are the backbone of our economy,” company spokesman Ron Reese told the Review-Journal. “He did not lobby for passage of any particular version of the stimulus or for the gaming industry specifically. We have no plans to seek government loans.”

Caesars Entertainment Corp. spokesman Rich Broome said he was unable to provide comment. Wynn Resorts Ltd. spokesman Michael Weaver declined to comment “until we better understand the complexity of the bill.”

Representatives from MGM Resorts International, Boyd Gaming Corp. and Red Rock Resorts declined to comment.

Virginia Valentine, president of the Nevada Resort Association, said the group views the stimulus bill as a positive step in fighting the global pandemic and “bringing critical financial relief to Nevada’s workforce” and impacted businesses.

She said tourism and hospitality workers, as well as the companies that employ them, are depending on “swift federal economic action to stabilize Nevada’s tourism-based economy.”

A Wednesday statement from the U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow praised the bill but added “there is still work to be done” to protect the 15.8 million American jobs supported by the travel industry.

Dow said no legislative package will erase all of the pain caused by the outbreak, but “this deal gives the travel economy a fighting chance to weather the eye of the storm and prepare to quickly lead the recovery.”

And more help will be needed in addition to the stimulus package, Dow said.

“The true scale of this crisis, and the economic damage created by this public health disaster, will extend beyond the scope of this historic bill,” he said.

The Review-Journal is owned by the family of Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson.

Contact Bailey Schulz at bschulz@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0233. Follow @bailey_schulz on Twitter.

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