Casinos throughout Nevada were closed Wednesday, along with other nonessential businesses, following an unprecedented order from Gov. Steve Sisolak. He urged residents to stay home to help curtail the spread of the new coronavirus. (March 18) AP Domestic
LAS VEGAS – Uncertain when hotel-casinos will reopen after government-ordered shutdowns to stem the spread of COVID-19, Caesars Entertainment is now using the minimum workforce needed to run basic operations at properties.
That means 90 percent of the resort empire’s 64,000 employees will be out of work, the company said Thursday.
“Given the closure of our properties, we are taking difficult but necessary steps to protect the company’s financial position and its ability to recover when circumstances allow us to reopen and begin welcoming our guests and employees back to our properties,” said Caesars Entertainment CEO Tony Rodio in a statement.
These cuts, he said, are critical to the company’s future.
Caesars is paying furloughed employees for the first two weeks of the closure period. Those employees can use available paid time off after that.
For furloughed employees enrolled in Caesars health plans, the company is paying 100 percent of health insurance premiums through June 30 or their return to work – whichever comes sooner.
The human – and economic – toll
The stripped-down workforce and mass layoff comes as the number of COVID-19 cases around the world surpassed 1 million. Nearly one fourth – more than 236,000 – are in the U.S.
The national death toll has ticked past 5,000, but federal health officials warn it could reach 100,000 or more before the crisis passes.
Running parallel to the human toll is an economic one companies like Caesars are struggling to navigate without laying off workers.
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Four days before closing nine hotel-casinos along the Las Vegas Strip to stem the spread of COVID-19, Caesars notified state officials that 3,200 workers would lose their jobs, according to documents obtained by the RGJ.
In a March 14 letter to the Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation, the company announced the cuts would happen the following day.
“Given the unknown certainty surrounding COVID-19,” wrote Servando Lara, Caesars’ director of labor relations, “we are unable to make a determination as to whether the layoff will be temporary or permanent.”
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One day after the letter arrived, Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak ordered that all non-essential businesses across the state shut down to arrest the spread of COVID-19.
The first round of Caesars reductions included employees at Planet Hollywood, Paris, Caesars Palace, Harrahs, Flamingo, Bally’s, The Cromwell Hotel, Linq Hotel and Rio.
Under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act of 1988, companies must give the state notice at least 60 days in advance, but COVID-19 spread triggered financial fallout too rapidly to comply, according to the letter.
“The layoff is the result of an unforeseeable circumstance,” Lara wrote.
Nevada has since extended its COVID-19 closure an extra two weeks, keeping the Strip – the state’s central economic engine – shut down until at least April 30.
Ed Komenda writes about Las Vegas for the Reno Gazette Journal and USA Today Network. Do you care about democracy? Then support local journalism by subscribing to the Reno Gazette Journal right here.
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