Louisiana Casino Sector to Lay Off 10 Percent of Employees Due to Coronavirus

Posted on: July 8, 2020, 12:57h. 

Last updated on: July 8, 2020, 09:21h.

Louisiana’s casinos and racetracks will lay off at least 3,000 employees because of economic pressure from the coronavirus pandemic, nearly 10 percent of the industry’s workforce.

Louisiana Casino
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards opted to hold off on a “Phase 3” reopening of casino facilities, which will now take place later this month. (Image: Hilary Scheinuk/AP)

Five casinos filed Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act notices in June for some 1,375 employees, The Lafayette Daily Advertiser reports. That’s in addition to the more than 1,500 workers given notice in May by Boyd Gaming.

Four of the five casinos — Margaritaville in Bossier City, Boomtown in New Orleans, L’Auberge Hotel and Casino in Baton Rouge, and L’Auberge in Lake Charles — are owned by Pennsylvania-based regional casino giant Penn National Gaming. The fifth, Cypress Bayou, is a property of the Chitimacha Tribe.

‘Sudden and Dramatic’

According to LDA, Boomtown General Manager Brad Hirsch told employees that the temporary closure of Penn National casinos in all 19 states in which it operates has put a strain on the business. Meanwhile, current safety restrictions that limit capacity will further take its toll, he said.

These significant drags on our business will likely continue for the foreseeable future. Finally, we could not have anticipated when our properties would be allowed to reopen and how restrictive the new operating conditions would be, and the negative impact this would have on business volumes,” Hirsch said in the WARN Act notice.

Of Boyd’s layoffs, Vice President of Corporate Human Resources Chris Smith said the “pandemic’s effects on our business remain unpredictable,” with safety measures “subject to constant updates and modification.” 

Phased Reopenings

Louisiana’s casinos were closed by order of Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) for roughly two months between March and May. The first phase of reopening began May 15, which limited properties to 25 percent capacity.

Phase 2 kicked off at the beginning of June, growing casinos to 50 percent capacity. But plans to move to a Phase 3, which has yet to be defined, were put on hold two weeks ago after a spike in cases and a surge in hospitalizations made health officials jumpy.

The four Penn National casinos collectively were down $139 million in March, April, and May compared to the corresponding period in 2019. In total, Louisiana’s 15 commercial casinos lost over $420 million over the period.

The layoffs come despite the legislature passing plans to move to a Phase 3 two weeks ago that would provide tax relief on promotional gambling credits for the state’s commercial properties. The bill is on Gov. Edwards’ desk and is expected to be signed into law.