AGA leader: Gaming industry should be included in any Covid-19 economic stimulus

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Howard Stutz has over 30 years of experience reporting on the gaming industry.

Gaming’s top Washington D.C. lobbyist said Wednesday the industry needs to be included in any economic stimulus endeavors under consideration on Capitol Hill in response to financial uncertainty brought on by the coronavirus outbreak.

American Gaming Association CEO Bill Miller said the trade organization has held discussions with representatives from the Centers for Disease Control, the Vice President’s office, congressional leaders, and the Congressional Gaming Caucus as the impact from Covid-19 is hitting the nation’s casino industry.

“In these ongoing discussions, we continue to reiterate the need for gaming’s inclusion in any economic stimulus being considered,” Miller said in an email message to the industry. “We are also communicating back to policymakers the steps that our members are taking to ensure employee and customer health and safety.”

Miller said the outbreak has “created uncertainty for the gaming industry and economy broadly.”

Shares of publicly traded casino companies and gaming equipment providers have fallen drastically over the last 10 days along with the stock markets as a whole. The Dow fell another 1,500 points Wednesday, erasing much of Tuesday’s gains following Monday’s historic 2,000-point decline.Miller

Lost business

Travel concerns have caused convention and group cancellations in Las Vegas and in other markets.

Nevada Representative Dina Titus, the co-chairwoman of the Congressional Gaming Caucus, whose district includes the Strip, agreed the gaming industry needs to be included in any stimulus.

“Our first priority is to make sure that families directly impacted by this outbreak have the support they need,” Titus said. “That’s why we will soon pass a bill in the House that would immediately help patients and workers. As the conversation turns to long-term recovery, I will ensure that businesses in Las Vegas have a seat at the table.”

On Wednesday, MGM Resorts International said a guest staying at The Mirage on the Las Vegas Strip tested positive for coronavirus. In a statement, the company said the person from New York was an attendee of the Women of Power Summit, which was held at The Mirage from March 5-8.

“We are currently coordinating with the Southern Nevada Health District to notify guests and employees who may have had close prolonged contact with the individual and are directing our employees to follow all self-quarantine requests,” the company said in a statement.

MGM Resorts closed its Yonkers Raceway near New York City Tuesday after a worker not associated with the company died after contracting coronavirus.

The AGA signed onto a statement with a coalition of 150 travel-related organizations nationwide in which tourism leaders addressed the latest developments around coronavirus.

Miller said the AGA convened a call yesterday with more than 50 government relations representatives from its to gauge priorities in any stimulus action. He said he wanted casino industry was included as part of the “broader hospitality industry” when the implications of the “evolving health crisis” are discussed.

“We will work diligently to preserve industry interests over the coming weeks and months,” Miller said. “We have engaged and will continue to engage other industry associations as I have personally been in direct, daily coordination with travel and hospitality industry association CEOs to make sure our voice is represented among the broader travel industry.”

Cancellations

Last month, the AGA was involved in the decision to postpone the G2E Asia conference in Macau until the end of July.

The coronavirus outbreak decimated Macau’s lucrative Chinese New Year holiday in late January after travel restrictions were imposed by the Chinese government on its citizens. In February, Macau’s leaders ordered casinos to close for two weeks as travel in China continued to be impeded.

Macau gaming revenues were down 11% in January, 88% in February and are already off 75% in March, according to Hong Kong-based analysts.

“Macau gaming market plays a vital role in the global gaming industry and is essential to the interests of U.S. operators and suppliers,” Miller said. “We will continue to support efforts as Macau returns to full capacity.”

Late Wednesday, the AGA said it was postponing its Sports Betting Executive Summit that was scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday at MGM National Harbor in Maryland. Miller said the AGA hopes to host the event at a future date and time.

Thursday, both the National Indian Gaming Association tradeshow and conference in San Diego and the World Gaming Protection Conference in Las Vegas were cancelled as well.