SARATOGA SPRINGS — Saratoga Casino Hotel on Wednesday announced the layoff of hundreds of employees furloughed in mid-March, when COVID-19 led the state to order casinos and many other businesses closed.
But the news is not all bad: Some employees are coming back. The hotel reopened Friday and a simulcast area is reopening with food, drinks and self-serve betting Thursday.
Saratoga Casino Hotel’s announcement came a day after its competitor to the south, Rivers Casino & Resort in Schenectady, announced it had filed a mass layoff notice of its own, also as a result of the COVID-related shutdown.
Neither facility’s Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification has landed on the state Department of Labor’s online list of WARN filings, which has been inundated with new notices since the pandemic put the economy in a straitjacket.
Saratoga Casino Hotel tallied the layoffs at exactly 401. Rivers said in a news release that it had laid off more than 1,000.
Rivers is fully shut down, however, while the Saratoga facility is in partial operation: Its hotel is open again and the harness racing track is hosting races without spectators. Once the Jackpot Deli and Mezzanine reopen with self-serve betting on simulcast racing Thursday, the facility will have 172 employees working.
The non-Indian casino industry in New York has been sidelined by the pandemic and the economic shutdown imposed to slow the rate of transmission. As various other types of businesses have been allowed to reopen — from hair salons to restaurants to even malls — a select few businesses have been kept closed because of potential risk of close contact and disease transmission.
Movie theaters, amusement parks and casinos have seen no public indication when the state might allow them to reopen.
Saratoga Casino and Hotel has a full reopening plan in place and ready to go when state does ease the shutdown: Every other video lottery terminal will be turned off, plexiglass shields are erected at areas were people congregate, guests will need to mask up and their temperatures will likely be checked at the door.
The plan was submitted to state gambling regulators and can be adjusted depending on what guidelines the state issues for reopening.
Saratoga Casino and Hotel furloughed most of its employees March 15 with two weeks’ wages. It has now formally laid them off, though it has continued their health coverage.