Rivers Casino & Resort Schenectady in New York state announced Monday that it will likely be laying off approximately 1,000 employees who have been on furlough since March. Other three casinos upstate offered the same notice, taking the number to as many as 5,000 employees, as there is still uncertainty about when they will be able to re-open amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Rivers in a prepared statement said it is filing a federal WARN (Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification), which is required when an employer plans to permanently lay off more than 50 employees. The Act requires employers to provide advance notice of layoffs lasting six months or more. “More than 1,000 Rivers team members have been furloughed after salaries and wages were retained for four weeks following the March 15th temporary closure of the property in order to help stop the spread of COVID-19,” said the notice, as reported by Albany Times Union.
Also announcing layoffs are the Resorts World Catskills casino near Monticello; del Lago near Tyre in Central New York; and Tioga Downs in the Southern Tier community of Nichols. Vernon Downs racino, or combination harness racing track and video lottery slot parlor, in Central New York also issued a layoff notification.
“The casino has developed a comprehensive reopening plan that addresses crowd management, cleanliness, air quality and circulation, monitoring, isolation, and social distancing to provide the safest environment possible. Our guests' and team members’ safety is our highest priority. Rivers Casino would like to reopen as soon as the State permits,” said Rivers.
The layoff notices come as they are approaching the six-month period, in September or October, from when they closed in mid-March and put their workers on furlough. If those furloughs or layoffs run beyond six months, the WARN notices are supposed to be filed.
Some of the casinos are owned by major players in the industry. Rivers is owned by the Chicago-based Rush Street Gaming. Resorts World Catskills, the state’s largest full-service casino near Monticello in Sullivan County with 1,256 furloughs, is owned by the Malaysian gaming company Genting, which is also preparing to lay off 955 workers at Resorts World New York City, a racino located at the Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens. Del Lago is run by the California-based Peninsula Pacific Entertainment, and affected employees would be 1,100. Tioga Downs and Vernon Downs are controlled by New York City developer Jeff Gurala, with 900 furloughs.
While most of New York’s Indian nation-operated casinos — including those owned by the Oneida Indian Nation — have reopened, Gov. Cuomo has not yet cleared the commercial casinos to start back up. The Indian casinos are not strictly bound by the governor’s shutdown orders, although in reopening they have agreed to impose health and safety restrictions similar to those required by the state.