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Commercial casinos in New York are finally going to be given some form of transparency on when they might be allowed to reopen this week. 

Venues of this kind in the Empire State have been shuttered since March as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, which ravaged New York earlier this year. 

Many businesses in the state have since reopened, including tribal casinos. Governor Andrew Cuomo has been criticized for the lack of information given to commercial casinos by both operators and their employees. 

In recent weeks, workers who haven’t been able to tend to their jobs for months have rallied in hope of persuading Cuomo to let them return soon. 

“I understand people’s frustration and anger” 

In a conference call with news reporters on Sunday, the New York Governor said that there will be an “announcement next week” – referring to the one which has just begun. He also added that “it is going to be positive news”. 

Cuomo has also, according to Syracuse, said the following about disgruntled workers from New York Casinos who have been left in the dark. 

“We’re trying to find a balance. I understand people’s anger and frustration – I do.

“I understand the economic reality, I understand the feeling that you see other things, other places opening up. But you still can’t get back to work.”

Precarious position for the commercial casinos of New York

New York’s four commercial casinos currently employ around 5,000 people, most of whom have been furloughed since their workplaces shut. Casino owners have warned that continuing to delay the reopening of casinos is putting these jobs at risk. 

According to the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act, employees that are furloughed for six months will automatically have their work contracts terminated. For a lot of workers, this would happen at the beginning of October. 

Thus far, casinos have been kept shut because they are not deemed to be an essential business. Moreover, the governor is worried about people being confined in close spaces and the possibility that social distancing cannot be achieved in such venues. 

Last Thursday, rallies were held in the state capital, Albany. At the time, Tom McOwen – Table Games Manager at Rivers Casino – said the following. 

“It is unfair because casinos have the same structure – you’re just as close in a restaurant, a gym, a bowling alley, a mall as you are in a casino. 

“When he (Cuomo) says we’re not essential, it really puts a damper on the mood. I feel essential. I feel like what I do to stimulate the economy, to drive tax revenue, helps out everybody.”

The value of commercial casinos to New York’s economy 

Mark Egan, who is President of the Capital Region Chamber, has also discussed the importance of New York’s commercial casinos to the state’s economy – which has been hit hard by the pandemic. WGRS reported the following last month.

“And of the $110 million, $57 million went back into taxes. Some of it going to education, but even locally about $3 million went into the city of Schenectady, $3 million to Schenectady County and the neighboring counties all received it.

“The casino helps subsidize our property taxes so there is really a direct benefit to the communities.”

Tribal casinos have already been able to open in New York because they operate on sovereign tribal land. Therefore, they are not bound to the same laws as commercial venues. However, they have reopened with safety measures in place to help prevent a spike in cases. 

Casino workers appealing for their workplaces’ reopening are asking the Governor to use tribal casinos as a case study.

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