A number of workers at Valley Forge Casino told PlayPennsylvania on the condition of anonymity that “significant layoffs” are expected, possibly close to 300 employees. However, none of the employees who were brought back when the casino reopened are expected to be furloughed.
PlayPennsylvania reached out to Valley Forge Casino for comment on the matter.
David Strow, vice president of corporate communications at Boyd Gaming, which owns and operates Valley Forge Casino, said:
“Given these ongoing challenges and continued uncertainty, we are moving forward with permanent layoffs of team members who were still on furlough and had not been recalled to work. These layoffs are at the lower end of the range outlined in the WARN Act letters issued in May. We are notifying affected team members as expeditiously as we can.
“This was an extremely difficult decision for our company and one we had hoped would not be necessary. To assist impacted team members during this difficult time, we will be providing financial assistance to those who are affected.”
Casino first to close for COVID-19, layoffs followed
According to a WARN notice in May from the Pennsylvania Department of Labor, Valley Forge Casino laid off 539 employees. The notice noted that the layoffs, effective July 1 through July 14, were expected to be temporary due to the pandemic.
Valley Forge Casino isn’t the only one in the gaming industry making tough personnel decisions. Rivers Casino Philadelphia, the lone casino in PA yet to reopen its doors, plans to resume operation on Friday. Of the casino’s 1,700 employees, half will be back to work. However, some of them will be seeing a smaller paycheck. The Philadelphia Inquirer has reported that the company has imposed a pay cut of up to 15% on salaried employees. Hourly workers’ pay remains the same.
Wyomissing, PA-based Penn National Gaming announced in mid-June that, effective Aug. 15, the company could permanently lay off as many as 233 employees in Pennsylvania and Nevada, according to a notice filed with the state Department of Labor & Industry.
Additional employees at casinos owned by Penn National also could be cut. A June WARN notice shows that Hollywood Casino could lay off up to 64 people and The Meadows could axe 180 workers. If the layoffs are permanent, the impacted employees might be laid off on Sept. 15 or within two weeks of that date.
Limited capacity, loss of revenue after months of closure
Casinos across the country are facing the challenge of lower capacity limits in addition to trying to provide a fun and safe guest experience.
“While we have been able to reopen most of our properties since that time, we are still facing significant restrictions on our business, and visitation levels remain well below pre-pandemic levels,” said Strow in an email on Tuesday.
All 12 of Pennsylvania’s brick-and-mortar casinos closed by March 17. What was at first believed to be a two-week shutdown turned into over one hundred days of darkness. Rivers Casino Pittsburgh and The Meadows were the first casinos to welcome back guests on June 9.
Casinos in the state must follow the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) COVID-19 Casino Reopening Protocols. They detail the minimum safety and health-related requirements that are mandatory before reopening.
Some key points include:
- Casinos can reopen at 50% capacity.
- Employees and guests must wear masks.
- There must be markings on the floor to promote social distancing.
- Enhanced cleaning is required throughout the facility.
- Poker rooms are not authorized to operate due to players’ handling of cards and chips.
- Due to an updated mandate that masks must be worn in all public spaces, the PGCB informed casinos that smoking was temporarily banned.
Valley Forge Casino hotel open, hours reduced
Valley Forge Casino is not operating 24/7 like a number of PA casinos. Deep cleaning occurs in the off-hours. It is open from 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and 10 a.m. to 3 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays
It is the region’s only full-amenity gaming resort, and The Casino Tower, which has 150 hotel rooms, is currently taking reservations.
According to the casino’s website, the FanDuel Sportsbook is temporarily closed. However, players can still access FanDuel’s online sportsbook.
Increased cleaning but decreased business volume
Valley Forge Casino and Harrah’s Casino Philadelphia represented the first gaming operators to return in southeastern Pennsylvania when they opened their doors again in late June.
Valley Forge implemented Boyd Clean, the company’s nationwide health and safety protocols. It includes measures such as enforcing social distancing; aggressive sanitation schedules, especially for high-touch surfaces; and wearing face masks. All employees received COVID-19 testing prior to return.
PlayPennsylvania interviewed Valley Forge Casino’s vice president and general manager David Zerfing during its June reopening. He said:
“We have been recalling team members and are still in the process of doing that. It will not be all of them, because business volume will be lower and amenities are limited. But we are happy to bring back as many as we can and get back to business and see if there is the opportunity to recall more.”