American Gaming Association (AGA) President and CEO Bill Miller has called on the US Government to continue supporting the gaming industry amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

In a missive to association members, he said that while gaming continues to responsibly reopen across the country, the industry remains among the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and additional federal support is needed to weather this storm. 

“Initial relief efforts through the CARES Act, which the AGA fought to ensure our industry was eligible for, provided a first step to stabilize the economy in March,” he wrote.

“After months of delay, Congress finally appears poised to deliver more relief. Senate Republicans released their proposal, the HEALS Act, earlier this week as a starting point for negotiations with Democrats who passed the HEROES Act in May.” 

The HEALS Act includes key provisions that can support gaming operators. They include liability protection for businesses from COVID-19 exposure claims as well as tax relief through the employee retention tax credit, work opportunity tax credit, credit for PPE and health and safety measures. There is also full deduction for business meals.

It also provides tribes, if they follow the federal fiscal calendar, 90 days’ flexibility after the last day of their 2021 fiscal year to spend the March relief package funds. Moreover, it increases reimbursement for unemployment benefits costs incurred by tribes to 75%, up from 50% under the CARES Act.

“We are encouraged to see liability protection included in the HEALS Act, as well as Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s firm support of it,” continued Miller. “We heard across all gaming segments that this relief measure is critical for our industry to reopen and stay open. The AGA will continue to fight to ensure this is a core element of any deal that emerges.

“At the same time, we recognize this may be the last major congressional action to stabilize the economy over the next several months. We are committed to ensuring the gaming industry not only continues to be eligible for the economic relief extended to all businesses that have been impacted by the pandemic, but that Congress prioritizes measures that will provide the greatest assistance to the commercial and tribal gaming industry.” 

Chief among those measures said Miller are enhanced employee retention, general business, and PPE tax credits alongside provisions targeted at restarting the travel and tourism industry. These could include incentives for conventions and business travel, spending on meals and entertainment, and other measures to get Americans traveling again.

“Negotiations this week have thus far yielded little progress toward a bipartisan agreement,” he stated. “There are significant gaps between the HEALS and HEROES Act, with many thorny issues that will need to be resolved – including extension of unemployment benefits and funding for state and local governments. We will keep you updated throughout the process as policymakers work to pass a bill before August recess.”