(Kimberly James) – More than 275,000 gaming and tourism jobs were lost in the weeks following Nevada’s casino shutdown. Casino operators are now facing a new challenge – how many employees to bring back to work under the new health and safety guidelines established by Nevada gaming regulators.
Nevada casinos are on track to reopen in late May or early June, but it will be a slow process. Some are only opening portions of resorts; other establishments are opening only a few venues, leaving the remainder closed until business levels are increasing.
“Casinos and suppliers will not reopen at the same staffing levels, and the return of the workforce will be phased for the safety of customers, vendors, and employees,” Jennifer Martinez, CEO of Consult HR Partners, told The Nevada Independent. “Operators and suppliers are prioritizing the work areas to re-open initially and the positions needed for each phase thereafter. For example, security and safety, housekeeping, and custodial workers following new procedures may return at the same staffing levels or higher, whereas positions such as event planner or buffet greeter may be hired back in a later phase.”
Another reason for the phasing in of casino employees is the health and safety constraints on casino occupancy. Resorts are limited to no more than 50 percent of their maximum capacity, must emphasize social distancing and reduce the number of seats at table games.
“The Nevada Gaming Control Board remains resolute in ensuring that gaming operations in this State do not compromise the health and safety of Nevadans,” Michael Lawton, senior research analyst at the Nevada Gaming Control Board, told The Center Square.
Right now, health and safety are taking priority over the bottom line. January and February revenues for Nevada casinos topped $1 billion. Analysts estimate it could take a year or longer for Nevada to see a billion-dollar gaming revenue month again.
“The Board has not begun the process of estimating the impact on gaming revenue or collections for FY21,” Lawton said. “However, we do acknowledge, based on information we have received, to get back to previous levels of gaming revenue and tax collections could take between 12-18 months.”
Gaming and tourism account for one of every three jobs in Nevada. The industry supports $20 billion in wages and generates $75 billion in economic output each year for the state. The casino workforce has been disrupted twice in the last 20 years, but nothing has compared to a total shuttering of the industry. Many casino employees have been furloughed or laid off.
“The economic impacts associated with COVID-19 are unparalleled and overwhelming,” Lawton said. “If companies are unable to maintain payroll and health care coverage, hundreds of thousands of employees and billions in wages and salaries will be immediately at risk as will the very core of Nevada’s economy and its fiscal system.”
A primary concern for casino employees returning to work is their personal safety. Guidelines from the Gaming Control Board state that casinos are to follow the state and medical guidelines for the use of personal protective equipment and should make the equipment available for its employees and guests.
“Casino operators are committed to working with gaming regulators and federal, state, and local health officials to develop plans for reopening,” Casey Clark, senior vice president, strategic communications at American Gaming Association, told The Center Square. “Any effort will prioritize health and safety while providing a quality patron experience and enabling our industry’s employees to safely return to work.”