Seneca Casinos Fail To Avoid Staff Reductions After Reopening

Written By Derek Helling on August 20, 2020 - Last Updated on March 10, 2021

Tribal casinos in New York have been operating at a limited capacity for nearly two months, but are still feeling the effects of over three months of a shutdown. That’s most evident in a recent set of Seneca Casino staff reductions.

Between the three Seneca properties in New York, the workforce is now 150 positions lighter. There’s no telling when, if ever, the casinos may rehire some personnel.

Details on the latest Seneca staff reductions

For Seneca Casinos, it’s a cold economical equation. Even with the doors open again, the revenue hasn’t been sufficient to support staffing at its pre-pandemic level.

The tribe stated in a press release:

“The challenges presented by the pandemic, notably the closure of our three Seneca Resorts & Casinos properties for 90 days, have been dramatic. While we have begun the initial stages of our phased reopening, the pandemic has unfortunately not made it possible to restore all areas of our operations to date.”

Among the ongoing restrictions are limited gaming positions and reduced hours. While those measures enable the casino to operate at its current level, they also reduce the potential to capture revenue.

The tribe says it is working to place as many of the recently terminated employees in other positions as possible. Between its Buffalo, Niagara Falls and Salamanca properties, however, there are only so many spots to go around.

That signals a desire on the tribe’s part to restore its staffing to its former strength as circumstances dictate. When that could be is uncertain, however.

One potential major development in the New York casino industry could dramatically affect that situation.

Will commercial casinos in NY ever open their doors again?

The Seneca casinos currently face competition from other tribal casinos in the state, such as the Oneida properties. The competition may become more fierce soon, however.

Commercial casinos in New York remain closed, pending approval from Gov. Andrew Cuomo to reopen. So far, Cuomo has deemed the gambling facilities “nonessential.”

Tribal casinos in the state aren’t subject to Cuomo’s consent because they sit on tribal reservations. For that reason, tribes exert a great amount of sovereignty within the parameters of their gaming compacts.

Commercial casino employees are going to stage a rally outside the state capitol on Thursday, Aug. 20. The workers aim to persuade Cuomo to allow them to return to work.

When Cuomo does give that nod to commercial casino operators, it will signal new competition for the Senecas. That, in turn, could mean a further reduction in revenues.

Following that through to a logical end, it could translate into fewer former Seneca employees being rehired, if not more cuts at the three Seneca properties. Right now, casinos face several challenges whether they are commercial or tribal.

Restrictions on indoor dining and distancing protocols only compound the limited capacities and diminished gaming positions. The Seneca properties in Niagara Falls and Salamanca aren’t making any money on their events spaces right now, either.

At some point in the future, those event spaces may be buzzing again. Until then, it’s likely that the Seneca casinos will continue to run on “skeleton crews.”

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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a lead writer for PlayUSA and the manager of BetHer. He is a 2013 graduate of the University of Iowa and covers the intersections of sports with business and the law.

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