New York State Casino Workers Set to March on Capitol, Demand Jobs Back

Posted on: August 18, 2020, 02:06h. 

Last updated on: August 19, 2020, 12:30h.

New York’s casino employees plan to rally in Albany this week to tell Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) they want to start earning a living again.

Andrew Cuomo New York governor
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has allowed some businesses to reopen in the wake of COVID-19. But casinos are still closed, and workers are mad as hell. (Image: Drew Angerer/Getty)

The rally outside the state Capitol is set for 11 a.m. ET on Thursday, Aug. 20.

In mid-March, Cuomo directed the state’s commercial casinos to close, as COVID-19 deaths spiked in the state. New York is home to four commercial casinos and an additional eight venues that allow video gambling, such as racetracks. The video-only locations do not have games with live dealers.

Freeman Klopott, spokesman for the New York State Division of the Budget, told that state officials are following the latest science in looking at reopenings.

Casinos remain closed, along with similar activities across the state, as they invite social gatherings with customers in proximity to each other while eating and drinking, activities that don’t allow for consistent mask-wearing,” said Klopott in an email to

The four New York State commercial casinos employ about 5,200 workers. The same number also work at the eight video-only facilities. Michael Kane, president and executive director of the New York Gaming Association, told his organization represents the eight video-only sites. The four commercial casinos are not affiliated with the association, he said.

Most of the state’s 13 sovereign tribal casinos had reopened by late July.

Casinos Pledge to Open Safely

The gaming association president applauded Cuomo for managing the coronavirus issue but stressed the Empire State’s more than 10,000 gaming employees are ready to work again.

“The governor has done a great job of handling the virus,” Kane told “Our facilities are ready to go in a very safe manner. We understand the governor’s directive. But it’s time.”

Kane said the association is not involved in the planned rally on Aug. 20. The event is being organized by employees and managers.

The three organizers are Greg Mallette, a manager at Vernon Downs; Valerie McIntyre, a supervisor at Del Lago Resort & Casino in Seneca County; and Robin Torr, hotel front desk manager at Tioga Downs Casino Resort, according to the Auburn Citizen newspaper.

“We need to work,” McIntyre told the newspaper. “We don’t want to keep collecting your unemployment.”

The employees are making signs to display at the rally and have come up with a chant, “What do we want? Casinos reopened. When do we want it? Now. What time is it? Our time,” the newspaper noted.

The organizers have put together a Facebook page and have started a petition that has more than 2,600 signatures.

State Looks To Health Experts

As of Aug. 18, the governor had not indicated when he would allow casinos to reopen. But he has permitted some businesses to start back up.

Gyms and fitness centers can reopen Aug. 24, though local officials might want to delay reopening those sites until Sept. 2 to give their health departments time to conduct inspections, the governor said.

“As New York maintains daily positive test rates below one percent, the state has determined that local elected officials can allow gyms and fitness centers to reopen at 33 percent capacity while following rigorous safety protocols, including wearing masks at all times,” Cuomo said.

State budget office spokesman Klopott told that “states are delaying reopening plans and rolling them back as COVID cases spike.”

“We’ve already seen casinos in California, Arizona, and Miami reopen and then close due to COVID,” he said in an email to “In New York, we will continue to track the data, the science, and activity at casinos around the country, and will make a decision on reopening them here when health experts determine it is safe to do so.”