ATLANTIC CITY, NJ – The US gaming industry wants additional financial support from the next round of coronavirus stimulant legislation and promises to fight new or higher taxes on its business in order to recover from the pandemic.

Bill Miller, president of the American Gaming Association, the gambling industry’s national trading group, said Thursday that the industry also wants temporary liability protection as it continues to open during the virus outbreak, and wants a federal tourism incentive, including meetings and conventions.

In an online speech setting out the industry’s goals for 2021, Miller predicted that the gambling industry’s fortunes will improve this year, especially in the second half of the year as more people are vaccinated and economic activity picks up.

“I think there is a lot of pent-up demand for games,” he said. ‚ÄúPeople will be excited to travel when vaccines hit the market, hungry for entertainment, desperate to escape their homes and just have fun again. In this environment, gaming will thrive. “

Like most other industries, the gaming industry was hit hard by the pandemic. In New Jersey, for example, the nine Atlantic City casinos were closed for 3 1/2 months, and when they reopened in July they could only do so at 25% of capacity, a limitation that continues.

Casinos won almost 44% less from players than in 2019, although additional money from internet and sports betting helped bring the overall annual decline to less than 20%.

Last year, the US gambling industry was included in a federal aid package for the first time. Miller said his group will fight to make sure it’s included in President Biden’s proposed $ 1.9 trillion virus relief package.

“We’re fighting to save gaming jobs,” he said. “We will pursue new tax policies that will help gambling companies keep employees on payroll and reinstate laid-off workers.”

Miller also said the group plans to develop new supporters of gambling in Congress and elsewhere; On Thursday morning he sent a letter to the Biden Administration and each member of Congress highlighting the jobs and economic activity that casinos are creating in the local communities.

He said the gambling industry paid more than $ 10 million in state taxes in 2019 and is opposed to efforts to increase them this year, even if states are facing large budget deficits related to the pandemic.

Total 2020 US casino revenue is still being calculated. However, that revenue decreased 31% year over year in November.

“We went through January and February with record numbers – and then we fell off a cliff,” said Miller.

But Miller said U.S. sports betting will surpassed $ 21 billion in stakes last year, resulting in $ 210 million in state and local tax revenue. Michigan and Virginia started taking bets last week, part of the 25 states plus Washington, DC that have legalized sports betting.

Although internet gambling is only available in four states, it generated nearly $ 1.4 billion in revenue and $ 340 million in taxes in the first eleven months of 2020.

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