After its partial reopening on June 1st, Mohegan Sun has now announced that it will lay off an undetermined number of employees “as a result of the impact of COVID-19.”
The giant Connecticut casino agreed to temporarily shut down on March 17, 2020, as the coronavirus pandemic was spreading across the state, and at that time furloughed nearly its entire workforce. Since the casino’s partial reopening in June, approximately 75 percent of the 3,828 furloughed employees were called back, according to Mohegan Sun President and General Manager, Jeff Hamilton.
Local newspaper, The Day, reports that Hamilton indicated via text message that employees are still being called back while others are being put into “open positions.”
In a statement, the president and GM said…
“As a result of the impact of COVID-19, effective September 30th, 2020 Mohegan Sun will conclude our furlough program that has been in place since March 2020.
“This will reduce our workforce for team members who have not been called back to work prior to the end of September. We are working with affected team members to find new positions and are offering retraining in areas of demand such as table games.”
“This difficult decision came after careful consideration and was driven by the unprecedented circumstances created by the pandemic, including reduced capacity and the inability to open all of the property amenities,” Hamilton reportedly said.
After the reopening, the source reported that in its first two weeks after resuming operations on June 1st, the 300,000-plus square feet gaming and entertainment venue did more business at its slot machines and table games than in the same 14-day period the year prior.
The competing Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation-owned and operated Foxwoods Resort Casino in Mashantucket shared similar success upon reopening.
In July, Hamilton said that with the exception of its nongaming revenues, that from a cash-flow perspective, June 2020 was the best June in Mohegan Sun’s history. In its slot machine report released in July, the casino reported it kept, or “won,” $45.5 million in slots revenue in June, a 3 percent decline over June 2019. That’s despite having deactivated nearly half of its machines to promote social distancing.
Areas that remain closed and where most of the employees were not called back to work include the Mohegan Sun Arena, where major events draw large crowds to the property, the Earth Expo Center, the poker room and buffet, among others.
The Day reports that in a private YouTube video prepared for employees, Hamilton acknowledges that at the time the casino shut down, he said none of the employees would lose their jobs. He reportedly says that he “thought the impact on the business would be minimal,” that when they closed, he thought they would reopen “in a week or two.” But, he says, the casino remained shuttered through the spring and ended up being closed for a total of 76 days.
Hamilton reportedly goes on to say in the video…
“We’ve gotten to a point where we can’t reasonably say to all of our team members that you’re going to return to work soon and in some cases, if ever.
“Some aspects of the business are just changing based upon this pandemic. … My hope is that we get to a point where Mohegan Sun looks more like it did in January of this year … but there’s so much uncertainty.”
A second source, reports that the company said they are working with affected team members to find new positions while also offering retraining in areas of demand like table games.
State Sen. Cathy Osten, who represents District 19, which includes the surrounding communities of Columbia, Franklin, Hebron, Lebanon, Ledyard, Lisbon, Marlborough, Montville, Norwich & Sprague, reportedly said she was told some 1,000 employees could be affected. That number, however, has not been confirmed by Mohegan Sun officials to the news agency.
“They have told me they have about 1,000 workers who were already collecting unemployment on a furlough status who will be losing their health care at the end of September.”
In a cooperative agreement with the state of Connecticut, the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribal nations agreed on March 16 to close their respective casino resorts for the first time since they opened in the 1990s due to the COVID-19 threat. And while the Connecticut executive order agreed-upon by Governor Ned Lamont and Govs. Andrew Cuomo of New York and Phil Murphy of New Jersey closed venues that attract crowds of more than 50, it exempted the tribal casinos.
The tribe’s Mohegan Gaming and Entertainment enterprise is responsible for overseeing operations at numerous North American casinos including the Mohegan Sun Pocono casino in Wilkes-Barre, which is owned and operated by Downs Racing, L.P, a subsidiary of the tribe’s casino arm.