Affinity Gaming, Four Winds Casinos Set Furloughs For Nearly 2,600 Workers Combined

Posted on: April 14, 2020, 04:00h. 

Last updated on: April 14, 2020, 11:05h.

Two more casino companies have announced plans to furlough workers, as the COVID-19 shutdown continues with affected businesses uncertain when they will be able to resume normal activity.

Affinity Four Winds casino furloughs
Whiskey Pete’s Hotel and Casino in Primm, near the California state line, is one of five Affinity Gaming casinos that will furlough workers in Nevada starting Friday. (Image: Unidyne/Wikimedia Commons)

Affinity Gaming sent a Worker Adjustment Retraining and Notification (WARN) Act notice to the Nevada Department of Employment, Training, and Rehabilitation last week. They said 1,093 workers at its five Nevada locations would be temporarily laid off effective Friday.

Meanwhile, Four Winds Casinos sent notices to officials in Indiana and Michigan that employees at its four tribal casinos in the two Midwestern states would be laid off. In Michigan, according to the letter posted on the state’s Labor and Economic Opportunity Department website, the decision will impact 1,489 workers.

All of these casinos, like others across the county, have been closed for nearly a month by the coronavirus pandemic. That’s led federal officials to recommend social distancing guidelines to prevent the spread of the virus.

Furloughs generally allow employers to keep workers with their business, but without compensation, and possibly without benefits. Furloughed workers are eligible to receive unemployment for the time they’re off the job.

WARN notices typically require advanced notice of the job cuts. However, businesses can be exempt from that notice when the layoffs or furloughs happen as a result of unexpected circumstances.

Affinity Announces Furloughs in Nevada, Missouri

Affinity Gaming, in its letter to Nevada officials, said the furloughs would affect workers at the following casinos: the Silver Sevens Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Whiskey Pete’s Hotel and Casino in Primm, the Primm Valley Resort in Primm, Buffalo Bill’s Hotel and Casino in Primm, and the Rail City Casino in Sparks.

The Las Vegas-based company also has casinos in two other states. In Missouri, it operates the Mark Twain Casino in LaGrange and the St. Jo Frontier Casino in St. Joseph. In Iowa, it owns the Lakeside Hotel Casino in Osceola.

Earlier this month, Affinity’s Missouri casino issued WARN notices that affected 132 workers at the Mark Twain and 143 at the St. Jo Frontier. Those moves, according to the state Office of Workforce Development, were also furloughs.

Four Winds Plans to Bring Everyone Back

The furloughs at Four Winds were effective Monday, according to a letter submitted by the casino’s COO Frank Freedman.

The casinos, operated by the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians, initially closed for a two-week span effective March 17. At that time, the Pokagon said it would pay all employees for the next two weeks, but also reevaluate whether to extend the shutdown.

Then, 10 days later, tribal officials announced the closure would continue indefinitely and they would review options on how to assist employees moving forward.

Of the 1,489 positions furloughed in Michigan, the most impacted are 127 dealers. However, the moves also affect executives, as five vice presidents are listed in the count sheet. Those positions are based at the tribe’s casinos in New Buffalo, Hartford, and Dowagiac.

Due to the unforeseen business circumstances and natural disaster precipitating this closure, prior notice could not be provided,” Freedman wrote. “Four Winds Casino does not anticipate using any bumping right, as there is no intention that positions will be eliminated.”

The Indiana notice has not yet been posted on that state’s site, so it is uncertain how many jobs will be affected at the Four Winds South Bend casino. When it opened in January 2018, the South Bend Tribune reported the casino would employ 1,200 workers.