Workers want virus protections before casinos reopen

Casino workers across the country want their employers to provide them with protective equipment and adopt tough new cleaning and social distancing policies before the gambling halls reopen during the coronavirus outbreak

Posted: May 5, 2020 3:08 PM

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — Casino workers across the country want their employers to provide them with protective equipment and adopt tough new cleaning and social distancing policies before the gambling halls reopen during the coronavirus outbreak.

Union leaders and workers from casinos in Las Vegas, Atlantic City, New Orleans and Biloxi, Mississippi, held a video press conference Tuesday to call for all workers to be tested at the casinos' expense before returning back to their jobs.

The calls came as New Jersey lawmakers proposed what could easily be tens of millions of dollars worth of tax breaks and other assistance to Atlantic City's casinos to help them survive the virus outbreak.

Two of the country's largest casino worker unions, Unite Here and the Culinary Workers Union, also laid out detailed health and safety protocols unique to each worker's job.

“I'm scared to touch dirty beds and towels and catch the virus and get my children sick,” said Gladis Blanco, a guest room attendant at the Bellagio in Las Vegas.

From the smattering of reopening plans revealed by a small number of casino companies, there appears to be agreement on some of the basics of what the workers want. Companies including Wynn Resorts, Hard Rock and Las Vegas Sands have all endorsed providing masks and gloves, and embraced social distancing.

But the union's requests go much deeper, asking not only for new procedures, but major new commitments of time and resources to implement them. Donald “D” Taylor, Unite Here's national president, said workers have to be given ample time to carry out the higher level of cleaning that guests will expect.

The American Gaming Association, the casino industry's trade group, said specific plans will vary among casinos, but “our commitment to the well-being of our team members and guests is consistent all across the country.”

The requests came as New Jersey lawmakers began considering a pair of bills that would grant millions in tax relief to the nine Atlantic City casinos.

“We have to find ways to get these casinos open safely and get people back to work,” said state Senate President Steve Sweeney, one of the sponsors. “The economy of this region is totally dependent on tourism, and that’s going to be one of the hardest to recover.”

One provision would authorize the state treasurer to lend the casinos money from a tax relief fund that in parts helps keep senior citizens taxes down. The money would be used to make payments in lieu of taxes that the casinos owe to the city of Atlantic City on May 1 and Aug. 1.

In another provision whose benefits could quickly add up, the $500 annual license fee for each slot machine would be waived for a year starting July 1. That would collectively save the casinos nearly $9 million.

Casino workers on Tuesday's video conference all described being eager to return to their jobs, while fearful of getting sick in doing so.

“My son works at a small hotel property. Is he going to bring a virus home to me?” asked Brenda Tucker Cassity, a bakery worker at the Beau Rivage casino in Biloxi. “I have elderly parents. I worry I might be bringing it home to them.”

Jeff Payne, a lounge server at Caesars casino in Atlantic City, said the most important thing is that casino management and workers realize they are in this together.

“The casino industry, built on rewards and tiers, must understand that we are all equal,” Payne said. “COVID virus doesn't care how much you gamble or what tier you are.”

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 314509

Reported Deaths: 7247
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto21626259
Hinds20359415
Harrison17934309
Rankin13634278
Jackson13447246
Madison10099217
Lee9980174
Jones8381163
Forrest7683152
Lauderdale7191241
Lowndes6401147
Lamar623086
Lafayette6200118
Washington5339134
Bolivar4802132
Oktibbeha462798
Panola4588107
Pearl River4512146
Marshall4443103
Warren4393121
Pontotoc420772
Monroe4113133
Union411076
Neshoba4031176
Lincoln3968110
Hancock379386
Leflore3497125
Sunflower336090
Tate334084
Pike3325105
Scott315973
Alcorn313368
Yazoo311669
Itawamba300477
Copiah297065
Coahoma295479
Simpson295288
Tippah288768
Adams286882
Prentiss279760
Marion269280
Leake268373
Wayne262641
Grenada261487
Covington259681
George248048
Newton246861
Winston227281
Tishomingo226967
Jasper221148
Attala214473
Chickasaw207857
Holmes189173
Clay185454
Stone182833
Tallahatchie178841
Clarke178080
Calhoun170832
Yalobusha164338
Smith162434
Walthall133945
Greene130633
Lawrence128624
Montgomery126942
Noxubee126734
Perry126338
Amite123142
Carroll121829
Webster114532
Jefferson Davis107133
Tunica105726
Claiborne102430
Benton99525
Humphreys96733
Kemper95828
Franklin83823
Quitman80916
Choctaw76418
Wilkinson67331
Jefferson65728
Sharkey50217
Issaquena1686
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 532895

Reported Deaths: 11001
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson771431528
Mobile41089808
Madison34837505
Tuscaloosa25810454
Montgomery24355588
Shelby23730249
Baldwin21191309
Lee15892171
Calhoun14522316
Morgan14324279
Etowah13861353
Marshall12250223
Houston10581281
Elmore10060205
Limestone9986151
Cullman9705194
St. Clair9702243
Lauderdale9441242
DeKalb8846187
Talladega8255176
Walker7246277
Autauga6938108
Jackson6815112
Blount6694137
Colbert6310134
Coffee5524119
Dale4850111
Russell443238
Chilton4308112
Franklin426282
Covington4136118
Tallapoosa4039152
Escambia393977
Chambers3578123
Dallas3557152
Clarke351161
Marion3130101
Pike311377
Lawrence300798
Winston275673
Bibb261564
Geneva251477
Marengo249664
Pickens234761
Barbour231756
Hale223277
Butler216469
Fayette212562
Henry189044
Cherokee184745
Randolph181742
Monroe178040
Washington167639
Macon159950
Clay156857
Crenshaw152757
Cleburne149141
Lamar142935
Lowndes139053
Wilcox127130
Bullock122841
Conecuh110629
Coosa107928
Perry107826
Sumter104832
Greene92534
Choctaw61124
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Columbus
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