The future of non-tribal casinos in the region isn't looking bright, as thousands of employees are now facing layoffs. At Tioga Downs and Vernon Downs, more than 900 employees were furloughed at the start.
According to state law, those employees could soon be terminated if casinos aren't given the green light to open. Due to the WARN act, workers must be terminated if they aren't brought back within six months of being furloughed.
"They’re going to go from maybe making $1,000 a week to making $400 a week, which is less than they make working for me, and you can’t live on $400 a week,” said American Racing and Entertainment Chairman Jeff Gural.
As of July 31, furloughed workers will no longer receive federal benefits such as the CARES Act. Tioga and Vernon Downs owner Gural is now speaking out on the uncertainty, saying that keeping New York casinos closed is actually working against the health of communities.
"My customers are not sitting home waiting for me to open. They’re going to other venues, all of which are open. The casinos in Pennsylvania, Connecticut, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Ohio, are all open, and the Indian casinos,” said Gural.
States like Pennsylvania and New Jersey have infection rates much higher than those in Tioga or Vernon. Gural says he already has safe re-opening plans in place. New filtration systems are being installed, temperatures of every customer would be checked upon entering, and masks would be required.
“The state is monitoring me, so I can’t cheat. I have to make sure everybody is wearing a mask. I want everybody to wear a mask," Gural said. "I think it’s counter-intuitive. I understand where the governor is coming from; I just don’t think he understands the mentality of a casino customer."
Tioga and Vernon Downs would also check license plates for any outside customers where rates are high.
"If we saw there was a spike in a certain county in the region, we would let people know we’d prefer you’d don’t come, and when we scan their driver's licenses, we would not let them in the door," said Gural.
Tioga Downs recently hired hundreds of employees thanks to its new hotel.