Dozens of casino workers rallied outside the New York State Capitol on Thursday, calling on Governor Cuomo to allow them to get back to work.

Tom McOwen, a table games manager at Rivers Casino and Resort, said he feels forgotten.

What You Need To Know

  • Dozens of casino workers rallied in Albany on Thursday, calling for the reopening of casinos

  • Most of the state's casino workers have been furloughed or temporarily laid off since March

  • By October 1, many will be terminated after being furloughed for six months

  • Governor Cuomo has not issued any reopening guidance when it comes to casinos

“When he says we’re not essential, it really puts a damper on the mood,” McOwen said. “I feel essential. I feel like what I do to stimulate the economy, to drive tax revenue, helps out everybody.”

The state’s four commercial casinos employ around 5,200 workers, and most of these employees have been furloughed or temporarily laid off since March.

Under the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act, if an employee is furloughed for six months, they will automatically be terminated.

That will be October 1 for many of these casino employees.

“They spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on new air systems and Plexiglas between slot machines so people distance,” McOwen said, explaining the changes made to Rivers Casino. “Moving slot machines, moving table games to create that distance, and policies and procedures to keep people safe. And next thing you know we got pushed out of phase four and here we are.”

The governor has not issued any sort of reopening guidance when it comes to casinos, despite recently announcing that bowling alleys and gyms could start back up again.

In response, Freeman Klopott, a spokesman for the New York State Division of the Budget, sent a statement saying:

“New York State has been following the data and latest science on the virus to re-open the economy safely and we are doing the same when it comes to casinos. Casinos remain closed along with similar activities across the state as they invite congregation among customers in proximity to each other while eating and drinking, activities that don’t allow for consistent mask-wearing. Nationwide, states are delaying re-opening plans and rolling them back as COVID cases spike. We’ve already seen casinos in California, Arizona and Miami re-open and then close due to COVID. In New York, we will continue to track the data, the science and activity at casinos around the country, and will make a decision on re-opening them here when health experts determine it is safe to do so.”

However, casino workers believe there is a safe way to reopen.

Valerie McIntyre, a table games supervisor at Del Lago Resort and Casino, says she has a message for the governor.

“The message is stand with us. You say New York is strong? Stand with us and let us make New York stronger together,” McIntyre said. 

Casinos on sovereign land reopened their doors in July.