Across the U.S., states have begun to lift their lockdown orders – with mixed results – and Massachusetts is one of the last to allow casinos to turn back on the lights. The state’s casinos had anticipated yesterday as the earliest date they would be able to relaunch their activities, but at least one decided it needed a little more time. Wynn Resorts’ Encore Boston Harbor won’t reopen for another week and, when it does, the majority of the employees won’t be arriving.
In an announcement made yesterday, Encore said that it will furlough about 3,000 employees at the casino, which constitutes around two-thirds of its entire staff. By furloughing, and not firing or laying off, the employees, there’s a chance that they could return to work, as being furloughed implies that the individuals are essentially still employees of the company. According to the Encore announcement, “Some employees working in the re-opened amenities and restaurants will return to work. Employees, who worked in areas for which a re-opening date is uncertain due to current restrictions, are being placed on furlough until further notice.”
Part of the reason for the lack of a larger staff is the fact that Encore isn’t going to open at 100% capacity. The number of gaming options it offers is going to be severely limited for a little while, and fewer customers will be allowed to enter at the same time. In addition, the casino doesn’t plan on bringing back poker or craps, per an order by Wynn, allowing the property to make some cuts.
It isn’t clear if the group of employees that are now going to be out of work are part of, or separate from, a group that, earlier this month, was expected to be let go. At the time, Encore said that over 10% of its full- and part-time staff would need to find new jobs as the casino looked for areas where it could save money in order to ride out the COVID-19 storm. It’s highly probable that there will be some overlap between the two groups.
It’s also highly probable that some furloughed employees may not be able to return at all, which could have been the plan all along. Wynn announced this past January that Encore would be looking to introduce robots to take the place of bar staff and, perhaps, it is now considering an extension of that plan. There’s no hard evidence to support the belief, but if the casino were willing to transition to robots before the crisis when it was financially stronger, it’s conceivable that it would explore the possibility more seriously now.