COVID-19 has been taking its toll on the global casino industry as casinos shut their doors.
However, many casinos quickly began to implement online offerings, allowing the, to carry on business as normal, so to speak.
But for three casinos in the Navajo reservation in Arizona, COVID-19 is still running rife and could cost more than 1,000 staff their jobs and pay checks.
A Bleak Outlook
On the Navajo reservation, more than 50 new cases of COVID have been reported over the weekend, not helping the calls for the reopening of casinos.
Three tribal casinos have been closed since March 17 due to COVID, with all 1,180 staff remaining on the payroll with full benefits.
However, after four months of no business, bank accounts are starting to run low and the Navajo Nation’s Gaming Enterprise is looking at a solution.
One possible outcome is to lay off a handful of workers, and the other option is to stop paying nearly 1,000 staff.
If the casino group stops paying staff, it could result in the casinos slipping away into the ether.
Government Assistance Could be Coming
Until now, the group has received government funding that covered the payroll for staff over half the 19 weeks the casinos have been closed.
The group didn’t disclose exactly how much aid the group received, but according to data from the US Treasury Department, it’s between $4 million and $11 million over four loans.
The group has presented plans to Tribal leaders and has tried to plea for a portion of the COVID relief funds given to tribes, but it’s still unclear as to whether the group will get funding or not.
As it stands, payroll represents around 70% of the fixed cost for the group, presenting a huge problem if the casinos can’t open any time soon.
Other Casino Opening Up
Elsewhere in the United States, other casinos are throwing open their doors, albeit rather dangerously.
Las Vegas has approved a set of regulations casinos must follow if they wish to reopen, but many are for the first few days then allowing business as usual.
As a result, more than 350 workers that are part of the Culinary union and their family members have tested positive for COVID-19 since Vegas opened once more.
Workers have also detailed how PPE isn’t being distributed or worn by employees and guests alike, and restaurants aren’t following proper protocol.
In Illinois, casinos were warned to follow the guidelines or risk losing their license, a tough approach, but one that is needed during these trying times.
If tribal casinos do open their doors in Arizona, a similar set of rules would need to be put in place to protect everyone from the community.
Time Will Tell
A decision is expected from the tribal elders early this week, latest by the end of next.
The future for these tribal casinos and their employees is still undecided, with many fearing for their livelihoods should the decision to axe workers and their pay be taken.
Hopefully tribal elders can come up with a solution that benefits everyone!