Trying to gauge the long-term impact of the pandemic on the casino industry has been going on for a while now. Some have said that burdening casinos with additional regulation would impinge on their competitiveness and make the recovery harder. Others have objected that casinos can certainly dispense with some “givens,” including allowing customers to smoke on gaming floors. Now, a Massachusetts casino study has tried to gauge the impact the COVID-19 pandemic and shutdowns had not just on the casinos themselves, but also on their communities
Workers and the Pandemic Impact on Casino Employment
The findings almost unanimously point to the same conclusion and it’s that minorities have been the worst affected by the layoffs that followed the COVID-19-induced shutdowns. The Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) and the UMass Donahue Institute’s Economic & Public Policy Research Group have teamed up to offer a better understanding of how shutdowns and the pandemic impacted white and non-white workers in the sector.
Job losses were one of the big consequences of the pandemic, but as it turned out, it disproportionately impacted minorities. The study was carried out while observing trends at the commercial casinos in the Bay State, including Plainridge Park, MGM Springfield, and Encore Boston Harbor.
All of these casinos had to shutter their operations between March and June 2020 as the United States was going through its first pandemic wave. While all three casinos were able to spring back on their feet quickly in July of that same year, there were delays in bringing back workers, as demand was understandably lower due to capacity limitations and restrictions.
According to the MGC and UMass, men and women of color seemed to be the most impacted by furlough and layoff orders. In the summary of the study that bore down on individual data, UMass did not hesitate to lay these facts bare:
“Since the initial shutdown, many of these workers have returned to the casinos, but the loss of jobs and wages certainly exposed these workers to broader elements of economic instability. Furthermore, the share of women in each casino’s workforce has been slow to recover as the facilities re-open and return to more typical operating levels.”
MGC and UMass study
Casino Staff in Massachusetts Hasn’t Quite Bounced Back
To put some numbers in perspective, the pandemic saw the three commercial casinos lose an estimated 69% of their staff, or at least reduce the active workforce to just 2,001 people from previously 6,520 workers. The study found that the majority of people who kept their jobs were “more male and more white” although this is almost certainly indicative of seniority or vital positions filled by those workers rather than a pre-meditated dismissal of colored workers.
However, UMass Donahue Institute senior research analyst Thomas Peake confirmed that the adverse effects of the pandemic were more heavily felt across communities of color. Peake explained that people from this background are usually more vulnerable due to various socioeconomic factors. And yet, the casino industry is struggling to fill back the jobs it lost during the pandemic shutdowns and the period of reduced capacity.