Posted on: Feb 6, 2021, 7:54 am.
Last update on: February 6, 2021, 6:24 am.
Research by the American Gaming Association shows that more people are comfortable visiting a casino in 2021. However, that interest is still nowhere near as high as it was before the COVID-19 pandemic that crippled the hospitality sector.
American Gaming Association President and CEO Bill Miller testifies at a July 2020 Judicial Committee hearing on gambling and college sports. Last week, Miller sent a letter to Congress setting out the association's priorities for 2021 and beyond. (Image: CSPAN)
However, AGA President and CEO Bill Miller is confident that interest will continue to grow as the year progresses, and says the public has "pent up a tremendous demand for games."
I am particularly optimistic about the second half of the year, ”he said. "When vaccines are introduced, people will be excited to travel, hungry for entertainment, and desperate to get out and have fun."
Because of this, the trading group has an agenda focused on one goal: the rapid recovery of the gambling industry. To do this, the association will need help from Washington.
AGA would like Congress to pass additional COVID aid packages. This should include liability protection and investments in travel and tourism. The group also hopes to find friendly voices in the White House and Capitol Hill to help advance reform, ease regulatory burdens, and remove tax burdens, including tax policies it believes are out of date.
Planned casino visits have not yet been completed since 2019
Last week, AGA reported that, according to its research, 80 percent of “prospective casino goers” think the industry has done well in safely reopening casinos during the COVID pandemic.
According to the association's COVID tracker, only 78 of the country's 997 tribal and commercially licensed venues are still closed. A look at the corresponding map shows that almost all of the still closed venues are in the southwestern United States. Tribal species make up most of the closed facilities.
For example, due to social distancing guidelines, casinos have installed physical barriers between machines or seats. They have also redesigned the game floors either to increase the distance between stations or to rearrange the games to encourage greater distance between players. States continue to enforce capacity limits while others also adhere to curfews.
AGA said again after its research that one in three adults plans to visit a US casino this year. This is the highest percentage that the AGA has found since the beginning of the crisis almost 11 months ago. However, that is still a 25 percent decrease from an AGA study published almost 18 months ago during the 2019 Global Gaming Expo.
At G2E 2019, the association reported that 44 percent of adults in the US visited a casino in 2019. At that point, 49 percent said they wanted to play for one in the next 12 months.
Tax incentives, credits key to recovery
Miller also sent a letter to Congress last week setting out the industry's priorities for "2021 and beyond."
Unsurprisingly, most of this is related to COVID, as the association found estimates that the industry saw a more than $ 100 billion decrease in economic impact over the past year. To mitigate that loss, Miller told Congress that AGA wanted tax credits and incentives, as well as short-term liability protection.
In particular, casinos want an extension of the job opportunity tax credit to cover those who return to work by the end of 2021. They also try to offset the costs incurred in protecting employees and customers as part of the reopening process.
She has a cadre of support on Capitol Hill with the Congressional Gaming Caucus, chaired by US Representative Dina Titus, D-Nev. She said the industry's recovery is also vital to her district, which covers downtown Las Vegas and the Strip.
Las Vegas Strip casinos reported gross gaming revenue of just $ 3.7 billion in 2020. This corresponds to a decrease of 43 percent compared to 2019 and the worst year since 1999.
I will continue to push my legislation to empower the Economic Development Administration to promote travel and tourism when and where it is safe, ”she said in a statement to Casino.org. "Additionally, I continue to work to ensure that the entire travel and tourism industry has a seat at the table in the ongoing discussions about additional pandemic relief to bring well-paying jobs back to downtown Las Vegas and the Strip."
The legislation that Titus mentioned was the Law Promoting Healthy and Safe Travel that she submitted last July. The law provides subsidies for municipalities dependent on tourism to promote measures to ensure visitor safety.
AGA is also renewing old priorities
In addition to the COVID guidelines, the AGA continues to urge Congress to update the tax guidelines, which it describes as outdated. This includes revising the threshold for reporting slot machine taxes, which has been set at $ 1,200 for more than five decades. The association believes this should be increased to $ 5,000. Such a high threshold lowers administrative costs and improves efficiency for casinos and the government.
The association also wants Congress to remove a 0.25 percent excise tax on US-licensed sports betting. The tax, the AGA said, serves a surcharge that legal sports betting must pay that illegal and offshore books do not. The group claims it has minimal income compared to the administrative chores it imposes on companies.
The AGA again announced their rejection of an effect to use Yucca Mountain in Nevada as a depot for nuclear waste. The controversial website, which didn't get federal funding for the revitalization this year, is just 90 minutes from Las Vegas. Miller said in the letter that radioactive waste transportation poses a great risk to Las Vegas.
"With taxes on the Nevada tourism industry accounting for 42 percent of general sovereign wealth, even a small decrease in visitor awareness to the area could have a serious negative impact on the state's economy and future growth." he said.