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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: 159036

Reported Deaths: 3879
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto10563104
Hinds10414204
Harrison7397113
Jackson6655128
Rankin6057107
Lee540396
Madison5120107
Forrest394786
Jones376188
Lauderdale3663147
Lafayette341053
Washington3321108
Lamar301950
Oktibbeha255262
Lowndes252867
Bolivar248084
Panola237353
Neshoba2280122
Marshall225051
Leflore211191
Monroe209778
Pontotoc208131
Lincoln200566
Sunflower194155
Warren183058
Tate180451
Union172926
Copiah170840
Pike166760
Scott161330
Yazoo161340
Itawamba159936
Alcorn159328
Pearl River158969
Coahoma155943
Prentiss154931
Simpson154053
Adams147252
Grenada145445
Leake141844
Holmes134461
Covington130040
Tippah130030
George129525
Winston128726
Hancock127641
Wayne123024
Attala122834
Marion121447
Tishomingo114043
Chickasaw110732
Newton110529
Tallahatchie99427
Clay96127
Clarke94853
Jasper87023
Stone82015
Calhoun79513
Walthall79330
Montgomery78426
Carroll75515
Lawrence74614
Smith74216
Yalobusha74228
Noxubee73317
Perry68726
Tunica63019
Greene62422
Jefferson Davis59617
Claiborne59216
Amite57615
Humphreys55219
Quitman5107
Benton50418
Kemper48018
Webster47714
Wilkinson40722
Jefferson38312
Choctaw3637
Franklin3635
Sharkey32917
Issaquena1214
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 256828

Reported Deaths: 3711
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson34214511
Mobile20299366
Madison13925150
Tuscaloosa13591156
Montgomery12659238
Shelby1095877
Baldwin9163137
Lee792566
Morgan710851
Etowah677467
Calhoun6695121
Marshall665757
Houston548239
DeKalb504738
Cullman472043
St. Clair451857
Limestone447546
Lauderdale436054
Elmore427564
Walker3818111
Talladega374457
Jackson350723
Colbert336443
Blount310043
Autauga287342
Franklin259734
Coffee254115
Dale242054
Dallas232932
Chilton230841
Russell22813
Covington227934
Escambia206131
Tallapoosa189191
Chambers185950
Pike162214
Clarke161819
Marion146136
Winston141924
Lawrence135336
Pickens127720
Geneva12638
Marengo125224
Bibb123938
Barbour120629
Butler118842
Randolph105922
Cherokee105524
Hale99732
Fayette96316
Clay93525
Washington93319
Henry8946
Monroe83811
Lowndes82129
Cleburne79914
Macon76522
Crenshaw72930
Conecuh72414
Lamar7138
Bullock70919
Perry6927
Wilcox64918
Sumter58922
Greene44218
Choctaw43519
Coosa3724
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