A table game supervisor at Del Lago Casino in Waterloo, New York, has started a petition to reopen the casino. The petition is reported to have over 800 signatures so far, in hopes of opening casinos.
Furloughs started back in April due to the coronavirus pandemic and are expected to continue indefinitely. Casinos on state land were not part of the state’s four-phase reopening, while Native American-owned casinos have reopened. Over 1,000 employees have been affected by the shutdown.
Casino management at the casino intends to rehire all the employees and says this is merely a technicality, mandated by state and federal levels. Local businesses surrounding the casino are also feeling the effects of the closure.
If casinos remain closed through the fall, then thousands of employees will be laid off due to the circumstances.
Casinos have been closed since March when the coronavirus pandemic struck New York hard. Casino workers were then put on furlough since mid-April and have been there since. As New York cases started dwindling, Gov. Andrew Cuomo began to reopen New York in multiple phases. Originally casinos were apart of phase four reopening. However, Cuomo decided that reopening casinos could increase the spread of the virus and have kept them closed until further notice.
The issue with keeping casinos closed is that furloughed employees will remain furloughed until September or October. Casinos will then start laying off employees when the furloughed period ends. Layoff notices have been sent to the four commercial casinos in the state and also include the Resorts World New York City at the Aqueduct Racetrack. The five locations will tally close to 5,200 employees being laid-off.
Federal law requires large employers to issue WARN (Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification) notices when a furlough or layoff is reasonably expected to stretch beyond the six-month mark, which is considered an “employment loss.” Those notices were sent out a few weeks ago after Cuomo announced he would keep casinos closed. With New York’s private casinos remaining shut down, the casinos issued warnings to employees that the layoffs could extend beyond six months or, in some cases, become permanent.
Now, del Lago Casino in New York is taking action and trying to do everything in their power to reopen casinos to stay working.
What About Indian Casinos?
New York Indian casinos are fortunate to reopen. Tribal casinos are not tied to Gov. Cuomo’s executive orders. This allows them to operate freely, although Cuomo is keeping commercial casinos closed within the state.
Although the tribes are not tied to the executive orders, their health and safety guidelines are similar to what New York has in place. Following the guidelines will help keep customers safe and reduce the risk of spreading of COVID-19.
This health and safety of customers make a compelling case for commercial casinos. If tribes can keep their customers safe, then why can’t commercial casinos? New York has also not been able to bring in revenue from gambling in the state, especially as New York is in dire need of revenue streams.
If cases remain low in casino areas, and tribal casinos can open, then there should be no reason to keep commercial casinos closed – especially when so many people could be losing jobs over the next few months.
Possible Safety Protocols
Safety and spread is the biggest concern for keeping casinos closed. Some of the safety protocols Oneida Casino, a tribal casino, was to put in are mandatory face coverings for employees, guests, and vendors.
Gloves are required for all employees who are working in direct contact with guests and daily non-invasive thermal temperature checks of every employee. All restaurants and bars will also have at least six feet of separation between tables. Buffets or other self-service food options will remain closed, and there will be no self-service food in any of the Players’ Lounges or banquet rooms.
These basic measures would help limit the spread of the virus, especially with how bad things were in New York City this spring. Commercial casinos can learn how Oneida and other tribal casinos are keeping customers safe.
The Oneidas casino protocols will also include enhanced cleaning measures, HVAC air changeover levels will be maintained at a significantly greater capacity, and will cancel all shows due to potential mass gatherings in the event center. They will also not allow guests who are coming from 22 states listed in their guidelines.
Cuomo should look at how Indian casinos are operating right now and implement the same rules in commercial casinos. Employees want to work, and the New York casino industry could be decimated if nothing is done before this fall.