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Casino workers rally in Albany as del Lago, other commercial facilities remain shut down

Casino workers from around New York State rallied at the Capitol on Thursday, calling for Governor Andrew Cuomo to reopen facilities.

Tom McOwen, a table games manager at Rivers Casino and Resort shared his frustration, and told Spectrum News he feels forgotten.

“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.”

New York has four commercial casinos, which employ around 5,200 workers. Most of these employees have been furloughed during the Coronavirus Pandemic.

This includes more than 1,000 workers at Del Lago Resort & Casino in Seneca County.

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

For casino workers at Del Lago the timeframe for that happening in between September and October.

“They spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on new air systems and Plexiglas between slot machines so people distance,” McOwen added. “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.”

Freeman Klopott, a spokesman for the New York State Division of the Budget, responded to the rally with a statement issued to media:

“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.”

Meanwhile, Valerie McIntyre, a supervisor at Del Lago said she wants to see the Governor stand with, not against them.

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

Casinos operated by various native groups have reopened, and seen significant crowds.