Employees at Rivers Casino & Resort Schenectady were dealt another blow this week when they were notified of possible widespread layoffs.
The WARN Act means at least a portion of the more than 1,000 already furloughed employees could be permanently laid off.
Casino officials said Monday the notices resulted from “the uncertainty caused by the extended COVID-19 shutdown, unforeseen business circumstances beyond the company’s control, and out of an abundance of caution.”
“It is uncertain how long the furloughs will continue and how many furloughs may unfortunately become permanent layoffs,” noted the release.
A grim outlook for Rivers as casino closures continue
Rivers Schenectady was far from alone in its employment setback.
WARN notices were also sent to furloughed employees at the following properties:
- Resorts World Catskills
- Resorts World New York City
- Tioga Downs
- Vernon Downs
- del Lago Resort & Casino
WARN, or Work Adjustment And Retraining Notification, notices are legally required in the state. They give workers early notice of potential closures or layoffs stretching past six months.
Over 4,100 New York casino workers received the notices, a devastating blow for an industry severely affected by COVID-19.
While tribal casinos have reopened, the state’s remaining casinos have been closed since mid-March.
Rivers Schenectady has gently urged the state to reopen casinos.
“Rivers Casino would like to reopen as soon as the State permits,” noted Monday’s release.
At the same time, Executive Vice President of del Lago Resort & Casino Lance Young complained in a statement this week that casinos “have not yet received information regarding when or how we will be permitted to reopen.”
Rivers Schenectady cited an already-established “comprehensive reopening plan.” It “addresses crowd management, cleanliness, air quality and circulation, monitoring, isolation, and social distancing to provide the safest environment possible.”
Such urging has so far fallen on deaf ears.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced last week that casinos and movie theaters will remain closed indefinitely. The state government “continues to review the science and facts on their safe reopening,” according to his office.
Financial questions nothing new for Schenectady casino
Disappointing headlines have followed Rivers Schenectady since its 2017 opening.
In January 2018 the casino generated $600,000 less in revenue than expected in its first year.
The Albany Business Review noted the casino had “fallen far short of its gambling revenue projection” in the face of increased competition in the Catskills. Property owners questioned why they weren’t receiving anticipated tax cuts.
The casino has since had its bright spots, although an executive complained less than a year ago that its tax rate was causing challenges in competition.
Meanwhile, the WARN notices also coincide with the departure of Schenectady County’s tourism director, Becky Daniels.
Daniels began working at the then-new Discover Schenectady in 2017, but now joins CAP COM Federal Credit Union as its director of community engagement.
The tourism office serves in large part to attract people to Rivers Schenectady. The front page of Discover Schenectady’s website highlights the casino as a leading local attraction.
In a sharp turn, the agency now finds itself facing a dearth of tourism during the COVID-19 pandemic and no immediate replacement for Daniels. She first announced her anticipated departure in April. The website still has the position posted.