Michigan tribal casino operator lays off close to 1,500 employees due to coronavirus pandemic

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Posted on: April 17, 2020 3:46 pm EDT

It’s not just Las Vegas and Atlantic City that remains at a standstill during the COVID-19 crisis. Casinos all over the globe have been forced to shut their doors to help stop the spread. And that’s having a detrimental effect on casino and hospitality employees everywhere.

Not spared is the tribal casino system. In Michigan, almost 1,500 employees have been laid off by Four Winds Casinos, which operates gambling facilities in Michigan, including in New Buffalo, Hartford, and Dowagiac.

“Due to the rapid onset of COVID-19, for the safety and well-being of the employees, the casino has suspended services and is not open to the public,” Frank Freedman, CEO of Four Winds, wrote to state officials in a letter warning of the layoffs affecting 1,489 employees.

While disappointing, all employees who were laid off will be called back to work when things return to normal, according to the letter.

The tribal casino layoffs are part of a wave of disappointment to hit Michigan in the gaming space. Detroit has three casinos, including MGM Grand Detroit, MotorCity Casino, and Greektown Casino. All three casinos are closed due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

Those casinos have been shuttered since March 16th as part of an initiative to help flatten the curve. While the casinos were initially ordered to close for two weeks, the casinos remain closed indefinitely.

There are no regulated online casino or poker operators in the state, which means all casinos are left out in the cold for revenue generation. New Jersey casinos, on the other hand, are able to serve their patrons online with slots, table games, and even sports betting — albeit very limited at the moment with no NBA, NHL, or MLB games to bet on.

However, not all is lost. Reputable offshore gaming sites are stepping in to fill the void for both poker, casino, and sports betting.