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Mike Moser

Mike Moser: Skill Games Extend Financial Lifeline For Bars And Clubs

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By Mike Moser, guest columnist
Mike Moser is the Executive Director of the Wyoming State Liquor Association.

In March, 2020, House Bill 171 (Wyoming gaming commission) passed the Wyoming Legislature and was signed by the governor into law.

Among other things, HB 171 placed in statute the licensure, regulation and taxation of “skill games” being operated primarily in hundreds of Wyoming bars and clubs, including fraternal and veteran’s organizations.

There is a cap of four per establishment, and since then, over $2 million dollars has been generated for the state.

A few weeks later we were in the middle of a pandemic. These skill games proved to be a financial lifeline to these 300 plus businesses, without of which some, no doubt, would have closed their doors.

That reliable source of revenue during a time when uncertainty reigned is a big reason why some of them are still in business, and their employees still have their jobs.

But there was a difficulty created with HB 171. Built into the bill was a sunset on the operation of the games (June 30, 2021) and a moratorium on those businesses who did not have these games when the bill was signed.

These provisions were put in place so the state could, in effect, test the games out – to see their effectiveness and if they were a good fit for the state.

They’ve proven to be a lifesaver for our bars and restaurants and a good stream of revenue for counties, cities and the state’s education fund.

Since, they’ve passed the test, the “fix” now is Senate File 56 (Wyoming gaming commission-modifications and corrections) currently on General File in the Wyoming House of Representatives.

As helpful as these skill games have been for our small businesses and clubs, without the passage of SF 56, that lifeline would be snapped.

And although we have seen a lifting of COVID restrictions, business is far from normal, and that reliable revenue stream is just as important to our businesses and employees as it has ever been. And we are far from over with the COVID crisis.

SF 56 does not create any new type of gaming, but it removes the statutory death sentence for these machines and the funding stream to our businesses and the State.

We do not have one reason to support SF 56… we have more than 300 reasons; the small businesses in your town that have relied on these games to help keep the lights on. Senate File 56 needs to pass for the sake of those businesses and our employees.

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Mike Moser, Chris Brown: With Everyone Aboard, We Can Get Through This

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By Mike Moser and Chris Brown

In June, we penned a column asking Wyomingites to take precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, so that Wyoming businesses can remain open. 

Although many sectors of the economy have been negatively affected by the pandemic, some of the businesses we are honored to represent… restaurants, bars, lodging, and clubs… have taken among the worst of the economic damage.

There is only one way to avoid additional restrictions in Wyoming.  Start voluntarily.  If you don’t want to wear face masks and practice social distancing for yourself, do it for others. 

Although we have a number of counties that mandate mask usage, compliance with those health orders is often spotty at best.  We do not want to force elected officials and health professionals to take additional action, but our carelessness may force their hand, at either a county or statewide level.

We had anticipated five months ago the likelihood of a second wave of COVID-19.  We were wrong.  This isn’t a wave, it’s a tsunami.  And that tsunami threatens to engulf many of those businesses that have managed to survive thus far as well as the well-being, and lives, of our fellow Wyomingites.

Wyoming has thus far been fortunate by having some of the fewest restrictions in the country.  To put that in perspective, 35 states, in addition to the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, currently require people to wear face coverings in public statewide, according to a list maintained by AARP. Utah and North Dakota joined the list in recent days, and more are sure to follow.

Although we have fewer restrictions than the significant majority of states, the negative impact on Wyoming businesses and our employees is greater due to the high percentage of small businesses, particularly in the hospitality industry.  Many of those businesses that are holding on by a thread, and will not survive another shut down.  Although we understand the possibility of further restrictions in this COVID-19 tsunami, we don’t want to see it happen.

Perhaps you are one of those folks who feel masks and social distancing are unnecessary.  That, we suppose, is your right.  But we represent industries whose employees have been taking those precautions for months now, including wearing face masks every shift.  We want to keep our businesses, and our employees want to keep their jobs.  Please help them do that.

Follow the safety guidelines for the wait staff that needs that job to keep food on the table for their kids.  For the clubs, which includes veteran’s organizations, who are struggling to keep the lights on.  For the bar or restaurant owner that sees the spike in COVID-19 cases and knows that they can’t make it through another shutdown.

In closing, we thank you for your business.  Whether it’s takeout, a socially distanced restaurant meal, a beer with friends, we deeply appreciate Wyoming’s support for our small businesses.  Just one major thing.  Face masks and social distancing aren’t nearly as oppressive as businesses closing and employees losing jobs.  We’re looking toward the finish line, when a widespread vaccine will come available.  But for now… Please help us stay in business.

Mike Moser, Executive Director, Wyoming State Liquor Association

Chris Brown, Executive Director, Wyoming Lodging and Restaurant Association

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Mike Moser & Chris Brown: Controlling What We Can In Uncertain Times

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Controlling What We Can In Uncertain Times

Wyoming’s hospitality and tourism industry is the state’s second largest industry.  In 2019 we welcomed 9.2 million overnight visitors that spent $3.95 billion in our restaurants, retail shops, drinking establishments, lodging properties and main street businesses.  This visitor spending generated $203 million in local and state tax revenue and supported 32,750 full and part time jobs.  

Enter COVID-19.

We are now half way though 2020 and our businesses that rely on a booming visitor economy are now struggling for their very survival.  Occupancy and average daily rates for lodging properties are well below that of last year. 

Wyoming’s cities, towns and counties are seeing lower tax revenue to pay for essential services, restaurants, bars, and clubs are seeing lower volumes of customers, employees are seeing reduced hours and all have to adapt to health orders that limit operations in ways that we have never seen… or could have imagined. 

To add to an already uncertain horizon, states like Arizona, Texas, New Jersey, Washington, California and Florida have all taken steps backwards by re-closing (or keeping closed) bars, gyms, movie theaters, etc, after significant spikes in COVID-19 cases.  We cannot let this happen in Wyoming.

In a time when it’s easy to be overwhelmed by what the future may hold, there are commonsense steps that establishments and patrons across Wyoming have been and can continue to take to help stop the spread of COVID-19 and keep our businesses open.

Restaurants and drinking establishments in Wyoming should please consider the following steps.

·      Emphasize the importance of employees staying home when sick.  This will help other staff members from being exposed and being quarantined if the illness is COIVD-19.

·      Screen employees for illness before each shift. Employees reporting illness should not be allowed to work, to prevent exposing other employees and customers.

·      Follow physical distancing guidelines among customers and staff.  Develop systems for staff to remain 6 feet away from each other as much as possible, including during breaks, will limit the number of employees exposed should one of your staff develop COVID-19.

·      Ensure the use of face coverings among staff members.

·      Utilize proper sanitization practices.

·      Encourage customers to wear face coverings inside your establishment when away from their table or the bar

·      Follow all state and county health orders closely.

Patrons visiting their favorite establishments should please consider the following steps.

·      Please respect business practices meant to encourage physical distancing. This not only protects you as a customer but protects other customers and their staff as well.

·      Wear face coverings when inside an establishment and away from your table or the bar.

·      Stay home when you are sick.

·      Wash your hands frequently.

·      Avoid shaking hands.

·      Avoid gathering in large groups when inside the establishment.

·      Follow all state and county health orders closely.

The Fourth of July is this weekend. As we get ready to celebrate our country’s independence, focus on the things that are within our control. Let’s enjoy the holiday and the summertime traditions that we look forward to all year, in a safe manner that protects our freedoms and will keep Wyoming open for business.

Chris Brown

Executive Director

Wyoming Lodging and Restaurant Association

Mike Moser

Executive Director

Wyoming State Liquor Association

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