As more and more businesses begin to close temporarily due to the coronavirus and the need for social distancing, employees are being affected. In Atlantic City, most of the resort casinos have send layoff notices to employees. While only temporary, the notice allows close to 16,000 employees to apply for unemployment benefits. It is unclear as to when the gaming industry will get back to work in New Jersey as it is uncertain how long the need for social distancing will be.
The nine casinos in Atlantic City closed down on March 16th after Governor Phil Murphy ordered non-essential businesses to shut down. As the coronavirus spreads quickly, casinos have been considered hot spots. Hundreds of people congregate in one area and with high touch points like ATMs and slot machines, there is really no amount of regular cleaning that can do the job well enough to save lives.
Ocean Casino Resort CEO Terry Glebocki commented on the current state of affairs, calling this an unprecedented time for everyone. Ocean Casino is looking forward to the day when they can reopen and welcome back employees as well as team members.
The large number of layoffs in Atlantic City was announced at the same time as the national unemployment numbers were provided. Official data have the state of New Jersey with around 155,000 people filing for unemployment. In the US as a whole, over three million people have filed.
In Atlantic City, all nine casinos offered two weeks of compensation to their employees as well as an extension of health benefits. Eldorado Resorts, the partner company of the Tropicana in Atlantic City, is offering two extra weeks.
While employees of the casinos knew the layoffs were coming, it is still difficult to tell people that they have to be let go, even for a temporary period of time. Employees at Bally’s, Caesars and Harrah’s, all properties owned and operated by Caesars Entertainment, were informed of the layoff yesterday. Ocean Casino Resort also told employees the very same day.
For MGM Resorts International, the layoffs were issued to employees of the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa on March 17th. For the Hard Rock Atlantic City, the company is allowing eligible employees to use paid time off that has been accumulated during the layoff as well as an additional two weeks of borrowed PTO. This will allow some employees to be covered during most of April without having to file for unemployment.
Each of the gaming venues are pushing the fact that this layoff is only temporary. Once the bans are lifted, the casinos will get back to work and hopefully players will feel comfortable enough to visit and play their favorite slots and table games.
For the Trump administration, they continue to push the idea that some businesses will be back in action by Easter, which is only a short time away. However, health experts do not feel this is a good idea. The possible spread of the coronavirus still remains for some weeks yet. If the country gets back to work too soon, we may see a large increase in the number of cases due to contamination.
For now, casino employees are being covered by their employers and with the ability to file for unemployment, they have some form of income while the industry is completely shut down. There is hope for the future, we just don’t know when things will be back up and running.