The owners of L’Auberge Casino and Hotel reported plans to lay off more than 160 workers from the Baton Rouge company by mid-August, underscoring the steep toll the coronavirus pandemic has had on the gaming industry.
The corporate owners relayed its workforce cuts through the state’s Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notifications, or WARN notices. Companies are legally required to issue those notices when they anticipate furloughed or laid-off workers won’t be rehired for at least six months.
L’Auberge also listed plans to lay off more than 450 workers at its Lake Charles casino.
Eric Schippers, senior vice president of Public Affairs and Government Relations for Penn National Gaming Inc., which runs both casinos and several others in the region, said Sunday the company initially furloughed 26,000 employees in March and had hoped to bring many back in a few months.
Gov. John Bel Edwards ordered casinos in Louisiana to shut down for nearly two months through emergency orders aimed at blunting the spread of the coronavirus. The governor relaxed restrictions in mid-May and allowed most riverboats, racinos and video poker parlors to open at reduced capacity.
"While we have been able to reopen most of our properties on a limited basis, the continued social distancing requirements and uncertain business volumes means our properties will not be able to resume normal operations for the foreseeable future," Schippers said in a statement.
Still, the state's gaming industry has struggled to rebound and several casinos have also issued warnings of impending August layoffs, in addition to the L’Auberge plans to lay off more than 160 workers in Baton Rouge and 450 workers in Lake Charles.
The Treasure Chest Casino in Kenner laid off 340 people at the beginning of the month, and Boomtown Casino in Harvey is warning of 197 looming job cuts by Aug. 15, according to Louisiana Workforce Commission filings.
Those cuts contribute to the more than 4,000 casino workers in Louisiana who have lost their jobs since March. At least one Louisiana casino — the Diamond Jacks riverboat in Bossier City — has announced plans to permanently close.
The shutdown and limited reopenings have cratered gambling revenue in Louisiana. According to the Louisiana Gaming Control Board, which oversees the industry, the state's 14 remaining riverboat casinos brought in just $60 million in revenue during the month of May — compared with $157 million in May 2019.
Revenue from video poker machines have also sustained a similar collapse, according to the control board's figures, which show a 56% drop in revenue in May compared to the same month in 2019.
The latest available reports show May revenue at L’Auberge Baton Rouge fell to $4.9 million, down from $13.2 million, a nearly 63% decrease from the same time last year.
The company's Lake Charles casino reported similar plunges to the gaming board.
Penn National Gaming also plans to extend furloughed workers' medical benefits until the end of July and has raised $1.7 million in donations to assist displaced workers, Schippers said.
"These are extremely challenging times both on a personal and a professional level, but the steps we have taken to this point, and plan to take going forward, are all aimed at positioning our Company and the majority of our team members to be able to weather this storm and come out stronger on the other side," he said.
Staff writer Bryn Stole contributed to this report.