Casino Workers Plan Rally in New York as Casinos Remain Closed

New York casino workers rallied in Albany with an urgent message for Governor Andrew Cuomo; we are essential and we need to work.

The rally outside of the state Capitol. was organized by three casino workers, Greg Mallette, assistant hotel manager, and cage operations manager for Vernon Downs, Robin Torr, hotel front desk manager at Tioga Downs Casino Resort, and Valerie McIntyre, table games supervisor at del Lago Resort and Casino in Seneca County.

Casino Workers Demand Action from Governor Cuomo

More than 5,200 casino workers in Upstate New York have been unemployed since Governor Cuomo ordered the upstate casinos to close in mid-March. The governor deemed the casinos’ non-essential businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic, but has not set a timetable for when the casinos can reopen.

In late July, Governor Cuomo said, that the casinos will remain closed because of “density, the likelihood of compliance, and the nature of the business.” He bluntly added that “you don’t need a casino to maintain survival.”

However, McIntyre, Mallette, and Torr do not agree with the governor. The trio launched a Facebook group that has grown to nearly 1,000 members. The group’s online petition urging the governor to reopen the casinos has been signed by nearly 2,500 people.

McIntyre said that the Albany rally-goers will abide by the governor’s health guidelines, complete with the mandated masks and social distancing. Attendees will also be provided with hand sanitizer.

The message the group wants to deliver is that casino workers are essential workers.

“We need to work,” McIntyre said. “We don’t want to live off your unemployment. Let us earn an honest living. We’re prepared to go back to work.”

Mallette said the group wants the governor to allow casino workers to reopen their workplaces safely amid the COVID-19 shutdown.

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Is Relief in Sight for New York’s Casino Workers?

There may have been a positive development for casino workers when Governor Cuomo recently announced that bowling alleys would be allowed to reopen. Furthermore, the governor said that guidance would be coming soon for gyms to reopen in the state.

While that news may seem like a light at the end of the tunnel, there wasn’t an announcement about whether or not the casinos could reopen soon.

What the casino workers want from Governor Cuomo is a realistic timeline for when the casinos can reopen.

“When you’re putting casino workers in a position where there is no guidance, we have no idea what is going on,” Mallette said. “We have no idea if it will be next week, or if it will be for two weeks. Even worse, what if we get to October and we’re all permanently laid off. That’s the worst part to think about.”

In mid-July, more than 4,000 casino workers across the state received layoff notices while the casinos remained closed due to the state’s COVID-19 restrictions.

Casino workers at Vernon Downs, Resorts World New York City, Tioga Downs, and Rivers Casino Resorts World Catskills all received lay-off notices. Those notices warned that the lay-offs could last 6-months or more, or, become permanent.

Right now, the dedicated group of casino workers is prepared to rally. They’re printing up signs and have composed a chant, “What do we want? Casinos opened. When do we want it? Now. What time is it? Our time.”

If the rally does not produce an immediate response from the governor, or any new guidance for when the casinos can reopen, the casino workers plan to stage rallies at casinos statewide.

Local Governments are Also Hurting

The casino workers are not the only ones struggling financially; small, local New York state governments are struggling too. For example, the closure of the del Lago Casino is costing the town of Tyre and Seneca County at least $2 million in lost gaming tax revenue. That doesn’t include lost sales tax revenue, or the losses suffered by local businesses that benefit from casino visitors.

In the end, keeping the New York casinos closed affects entire communities that depend on them, for not only paychecks, but also tax revenue.