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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: 348496

Reported Deaths: 7556
CountyCasesDeaths
Hinds24427446
DeSoto23439283
Harrison21066330
Rankin15704292
Jackson15597252
Madison11114227
Lee10855179
Jones9181169
Forrest8960160
Lauderdale8008244
Lamar719489
Lowndes7167151
Lafayette6604125
Washington5629140
Pearl River5336153
Oktibbeha500998
Bolivar4989134
Warren4803128
Panola4801112
Marshall4725106
Pontotoc451473
Hancock438088
Union437179
Monroe4361137
Neshoba4351181
Lincoln4212116
Pike3711113
Leflore3668125
Tate354688
Alcorn353974
Sunflower350794
Adams345388
Scott344676
Yazoo342476
Copiah329868
Simpson325191
Itawamba316780
Coahoma314985
Tippah312568
Prentiss301863
Covington300184
Marion288681
Leake287875
Wayne280043
George276751
Grenada271388
Newton265964
Tishomingo240370
Winston237884
Stone234138
Jasper233148
Attala228173
Chickasaw220860
Holmes202274
Clay201154
Clarke188180
Tallahatchie185442
Calhoun183032
Smith182635
Yalobusha173141
Walthall149049
Lawrence145226
Greene141835
Amite138643
Noxubee136735
Perry135638
Montgomery133744
Carroll126831
Webster122632
Jefferson Davis118734
Tunica115827
Benton107225
Claiborne105731
Kemper103529
Humphreys101733
Franklin88324
Quitman85619
Choctaw82819
Wilkinson79332
Jefferson71928
Sharkey51818
Issaquena1736
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 589110

Reported Deaths: 11536
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson856031591
Mobile49268864
Madison37603533
Shelby27362257
Tuscaloosa27208465
Montgomery26252627
Baldwin25567329
Lee17260181
Calhoun15429334
Morgan15199291
Etowah14981370
Marshall13136235
Houston12112293
Elmore10946219
St. Clair10793252
Limestone10750158
Cullman10566205
Lauderdale10266254
DeKalb9517192
Talladega8972188
Walker7817288
Autauga7585114
Jackson7406117
Blount7382139
Colbert6721142
Coffee6382132
Dale5673117
Russell481343
Chilton4785117
Covington4763125
Franklin459081
Tallapoosa4525156
Escambia443883
Chambers3968125
Dallas3749163
Clarke371663
Marion3465107
Pike333079
Lawrence3267100
Winston299373
Bibb290965
Geneva285983
Marengo262767
Barbour252061
Pickens245762
Butler241472
Hale235978
Fayette227265
Henry214845
Monroe203041
Randolph201944
Cherokee199548
Washington185239
Macon170752
Crenshaw169458
Clay166559
Cleburne161545
Lamar151238
Lowndes145855
Wilcox132331
Bullock126542
Conecuh122132
Coosa118429
Perry110828
Sumter110433
Greene99137
Choctaw64425
Out of AL00
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Tupelo
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Hi: 87° Lo: 68°
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Columbus
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Oxford
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Starkville
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Tuesday will be filled with plenty of sunshine and temperatures will still remain below the normal high temperature for this time of year. Most of the high temperatures on Tuesday will range anywhere from the middle 80s to lower 90s across our area.
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