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Nevada casinos closing for 30 days following state order

Updated March 17, 2020 - 10:42 pm

Gov. Steve Sisolak’s unprecedented order on nonessential Nevada businesses will shut down 440 licensed casinos, bringing Nevada’s dominant industry to a complete halt and leaving tens of thousands of workers in differing degrees of economic uncertainty.

The announcements from various gaming companies over previous days about plans to close or remain open in response to the spread of the new coronavirus became moot when Sisolak made his declaration Tuesday that all casino operations cease at midnight.

Bill Miller, president and CEO of the American Gaming Association, urged the federal goverment to provide aid after Sisolak’s announcement.

“Nevada is the epicenter of the resilient American gaming industry,” he said on Twitter. “The federal government must act swiftly to bring relief to our friends, neighbors, and colleagues in Nevada and all across America whose livelihoods have been severely impacted by these hard but necessary actions.”

Impact on workforce

Culinary Local 226 Secretary-Treasurer Geoconda Argüello-Kline said in a Tuesday statement that the union supports Sisolak’s decision but “demands every Nevada employer pay all of their employees (including part-time workers) and extend healthcare benefits.”

■ MGM Resorts International started organizing for layoffs Friday and announced Sunday that it would temporarily shut down its Las Vegas properties. It said all furloughed full-time and part-time hourly employees can expect two weeks of pay during the closures. Representatives did not immediately respond to requests to clarify what would happen to employees’ pay after those two weeks.

MGM also was forced to close casino properties in Ohio, Massachusetts, Maryland and Michigan.

■ Las Vegas Sands Corp., which announced ahead of Sisolak’s order that it would close The Venetian, Palazzo and the Sands Expo and Convention Center, said employees would be paid during the closure and that no employee layoffs or furloughs were being considered.

■ On Tuesday, Wynn Resorts Ltd. guaranteed all Wynn and Encore employees payroll coverage for the next 30 days. The company shut down its two Las Vegas properties Tuesday, and its Massachusetts property was ordered closed as well.

■ A letter sent to Caesars Entertainment Corp. employees Tuesday obtained by the Las Vegas Review-Journal said full-time, part-time and regularly scheduled employees affected by the 30-day closure would continue to be paid, and their benefit eligibility would not be interrupted for “up to two weeks.” The company recently began layoffs.

Representatives did not immediately respond to requests for comment asking what would happen to employees’ pay after two weeks.

■ A Tuesday statement from Boyd Gaming Corp. said it would close gaming operations at its Aliante, California, Cannery, Eastside Cannery, Eldorado Casino, Fremont, Gold Coast, Jokers Wild, Main Street Station, Sam’s Town, Suncoast and The Orleans by midnight Tuesday. The statement did not say how the shutdown would impact staffing or employee pay.

■ Station Casinos, which operates 20 casinos in Southern Nevada, will continue to offer regular pay and health benefits to all hourly and salaried full-time team members through April 30, and it asked staff to continue to report to work as scheduled.

■ Penn National Gaming, which operates Tropicana Las Vegas, The M Resort and Cactus Petes in Nevada, said it would continue to pay wages and benefits for the nearly 3,200 team members at its Nevada properties.

■ Sahara Las Vegas, which laid off a number of employees Monday, said it will “absorb costs to maintain health benefits for all individuals affected by these changes during this difficult time.”

■ A Tuesday statement from Phil Ruffin’s Treasure Island said the closure is planned for 30 days, and the state will “reassess the situation after two weeks.” A representative said the same practices apply to Circus Circus, which is also owned by Ruffin.

■ The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas announced plans Monday to close Wednesday night. The company said it would continue to offer full pay and benefits to full-time and eligible employees through March 31. The company did not immediately respond to an inquiry about whether and how it would meet Tuesday’s midnight deadline.

■ Golden Entertainment, which operates The Strat, said it would reopen as soon as permitted. A Monday letter to staff said it plans to “do (its) best to preserve the jobs of the hardworking men and women” who work there.

State Gaming Control Board Chairwoman Sandra Morgan, who was at Sisolak’s side when he made the announcement Tuesday, said the medical assessment of the spread of the virus guided the governor.

“This was a decision that the governor obviously didn’t take lightly, and I appreciate him informing me of what his medical advisory team recommended,” Morgan said Tuesday.

Nevada Gaming Commission Chairman Tony Alamo, who is a practicing physician, said the governor’s decision was all about public health.

“The industry must follow the science” he said. “They (licensees) should be thinking in terms of their patrons, their employees and the state of Nevada. The governor believes it’s the right thing to do, and the science seems to indicate this is the right thing to do.”

Sisolak’s order also affects 1,977 gaming licenses for establishments with 15 slot machines or fewer at convenience stores, supermarkets, restaurants and taverns.

“From the start, the resort industry’s priority has been the health and safety of our employees, guests and fellow residents,” said Nevada Resort Association President Virginia Valentine. “We recognize Gov. Sisolak and his medical advisory team have given careful and thoughtful consideration to this decision, and we understand their actions are in the best interest of public health at this time.”

Morgan said she phoned several licensees, giving them a heads-up about the midnight shutdown that was on the horizon.

“We were in discussions with as many gaming licensees as possible, and we will work with them through these temporary closures,” she said. “There are updated temporary closure procedures on our website, and we’ll make sure these new requirements that were set forth will be on our website as well.”

The Review-Journal is owned by the family of Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson.

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter. Contact Bailey Schulz at bschulz@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0233. Follow @bailey_schulz on Twitter.

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