Wind Creek Bethlehem Casino to Pay Workers During Shutdown
Pennsylvania casinos will be closed for three weeks due to an increase in COVID-19 cases. Wind Creek plans to pay employees during the closure.
Across the United States, casino closures as well as restrictions have hit employees hard. Workers in the casino industry have been out of work for quite some time or are back at work but with limited hours. As the coronavirus pandemic continues to be an issue, employees are struggling to find ways to stay afloat. In Pennsylvania, a three-week casino closure was announced just a few days ago with thousands of employees affected. One operator has plans to continue to pay workers while the shutdown is in place.
Wind Creek Bethlehem
Formerly the Sands Bethlehem, the Wind Creek Bethlehem casino has plans to pay 1,600 employees during the shutdown. The operator was not happy with the closure order but decided to keep paying its casino workers. It is unclear if the property has plans to keep the payments up, if the casinos in the state remain shut down after the original order expires.
Wind Creek had to shut down the casino as well as its restaurants for indoor dining. This affected every employee that worked in these areas. The closure is supposed to end on January 4 but could be extended if Governor Tom Wolf feels that further mitigation efforts are needed.
This is the second closure for the casinos in the Keystone State. The venues first shut down back in March and did not reopen until June. At that time, the casinos could offer services, but only at 50%.
Taking on the Property
The casino was originally owned by the Las Vegas Sands and was acquired by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians in May of last year for $1.3 billion. The Alabama tribe owned the casino for less than a year before the virus took hold.
Wind Creek CEO Jay Dorris commented on the decision, stating that he understands why the governor decided to issue the new mitigation orders. However, he feels that some businesses are better at slowing the virus spread.
According to Dorris, steps can be taken to slow the spread and that Wind Creek has been proactive in this regard and enforcing mitigation efforts. They respectively suggest that all businesses are not treated the same when it comes to COVID-19 protections.
Just before the new shutdown orders, a letter was sent to the governor by the gaming industry. Wind Creek was part of that letter writing campaign. The industry asked that the governor allow casinos to continue working as millions have been invested to provide protections to fight the virus.
The letter also pointed out that the record shows casinos have been successful in managing the pandemic. Evidence has not been found that supports the theory that casinos spread the virus. The state’s casinos feel that closing the properties ignores the record of success as well as the industry’s investments and commitment to enforcing protocols.
For Wind Creek, the closure comes at a time when the Poarch Creek Indians had plans to expand the property. Work was supposed to start earlier this year on a hotel with a $100 million price tag. However, the project was put on hold once the pandemic began. The plan was to create a 13-story hotel with 270 guest rooms.
Plans have also been considered by the tribe to use $250 billion to change the No. 2 Machine Shop of the property into a hotel with 400 guest rooms and a water park. According to Dorris, the original hotel plans are still going to come to fruition. However, any changes to the Machine Shop area are still being considered. When the plans will start again though, remain unknown.