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Foxwoods closing some hotels, gaming areas, furloughing 130 employees

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Mashantucket — Declining traffic at Foxwoods Resort Casino has prompted management to announce the temporary closing of some hotels and gaming areas and the temporary furloughing of 130 employees.

In a message disseminated earlier in the week, Jason Guyot, Foxwoods’ interim chief executive officer, informed employees that “the continued spread of the COVID-19 virus throughout our region has led to increased public concerns and continued state restrictions, which have all resulted in significantly reduced business volumes for us here at Foxwoods Resort Casino.” He said the casino was returning to its "Phase 1 reopening plan with a few small exceptions."

Foxwoods reopened June 1 following an 11-week shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.

On Thursday, The Fox Tower hotel closed, and the tower’s gaming floor hours were cut to noon to 2 a.m. Friday through Sunday. The Rainmaker Casino, last month the scene of a Foxwood’s innovation, a slots room reserved for patrons 55 and older, was to close Friday. Comedian Anthony Rodia’s Grand Theater performances Friday and Saturday night were to be the casino’s last shows for the time being.

Starting next week, bingo operations will be shut down on Mondays and Tuesdays, and the Great Cedar Hotel will close Monday through Wednesday. The Grand Pequot Hotel will remain open.

“It’s been a tough week,” Guyot said Friday evening. “It’s a tough environment out there. The most difficult thing about this is knowing we’ve created a safe environment for our guests and our employees but not everyone is comfortable going out. Fear of COVID is real. Some of the states have restrictions that prevent people from traveling.”

Restrictions on Massachusetts travelers, in particular, have hurt Foxwoods, which has long relied on the Bay State to supply a good chunk of its business.

“We’re still welcoming residents of Massachusetts to stay for multiple nights,” Guyot said.

Connecticut’s travel advisory requires travelers from listed states and territories to quarantine for 14 days or provide evidence of a negative COVID-19 test if visiting Connecticut for more than 24 hours. New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island are exempt from the advisory.

Guyot said the 130 furloughs mostly involve employees in a variety of jobs in the areas being shut down, although some support staff members employed behind the scenes also were affected.

“It’s a difficult situation. They’ve been working extremely hard and they’ve done nothing wrong,” he said. “It’s just that we have to right-size the business with the volumes coming in.”

Guyot said he hopes to be able to rehire furloughed workers after New Year’s. He said a total of about 2,800 full- and part-time employees as well as “casuals,” who work as needed, remain employed.

Jeff Hamilton, Mohegan Sun’s president and general manager, said his casino recently has reduced some employees’ hours while avoiding furloughs and still employs some 4,000 workers. He said the casino’s “Bubbleville,” in which college basketball teams have been staying in the casino’s Sky Tower hotel while playing games in an empty Mohegan Sun Arena, has provided “a good base” of hotel business.

Since Nov. 25, teams have been sequestered on certain floors of the hotel — one team to a floor. Twenty-five teams have participated to varying degrees, with 12 the most on site at any one time, according to Hamilton.

The last scheduled game is Saturday.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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