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    Sunday, June 23, 2024

    Foxwoods laying off 'majority' of its workforce May 31

    The entrances to Foxwoods Resort Casino were barricaded on March 18, 2020. The casino announced Friday, May 8, 2020, that it temporarily would be laying off most of its staff on May 31. (David Collins/The Day)
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    Mashantucket — Foxwoods Resort Casino temporarily will lay off the “majority” of its workforce May 31, ceasing health benefits for those workers, casino management announced Friday evening.

    Foxwoods furloughed almost all of its 5,000 employees after shutting down March 17 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

    “Although we took the immediate steps needed to preserve jobs and effectively position us for the future, ultimately, this pandemic has been cruel in many ways and we need to adapt and evolve based on the current environment,” Foxwoods management said in a statement. “Since our closure, the Mashantucket Pequot Gaming Enterprise has maintained health benefits in place for all employees. Although there is currently no confirmed reopening date, as the property prepares for the first phase, some team members will return based on which parts of the property we reopen.”

    Foxwoods did not say how many workers it was laying off.

    In a communication with employees Friday, casino management said the shutdown’s impact has been “profound and unexpected.” It said Foxwoods had promptly applied for federal aid set aside for tribal governments and their business enterprises under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security, or CARES, Act but received limited financial support.

    “This news is devastating to us,” management said. “Sometimes, the most vigilant of efforts are not enough to get us to where we need to be.”

    Mohegan Sun, Foxwoods’ southeastern Connecticut rival, also shut down March 17, furloughing most of its employees.

    “We are continuing to provide benefits to our team members that are furloughed and tribal leadership has not made that difficult decision to transition to layoffs at this time,” Chuck Bunnell, the Mohegan Tribe’s chief of staff, said Friday night.

    Both the Mohegans and the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe, which owns Foxwoods, have been planning to reopen their casinos in phases and with numerous safeguards in place to protect employees and patrons from the spread of the coronavirus disease.

    While it has set no date for reopening, Foxwoods management told employees it will be calling some of them back to work as it prepares for “Phase One.” Employees scheduled to return will be notified by May 22 and will retain their benefits, according to the message sent to employees.

    Employees who do not hear from management by May 22 are advised to seek other health care coverage.

    In Phase One, Foxwoods anticipates opening the Grand Pequot and Great Cedar casino floors, the Grand Pequot Hotel and limited food and beverage outlets.

    Rodney Butler, the Mashantucket chairman, appeared Wednesday night on ABC’s “Nightline,” describing changes the casino will adopt to maintain social distancing and cleanliness as it reopens. He said “high contact” areas like the bingo hall and buffets will remain closed at first and that see-through barriers would be erected to separate table-games dealers and gamblers. Seats at slot machines and at the tables will be spaced out, their overall numbers reduced.

    During the shutdown, John James, Foxwoods’ president and chief executive officer, resigned after just eight months on the job, and Jason Guyot, senior vice president of resort operations, was named to succeed him on an interim basis. The shutdown came amid contract negotiations between casino management and Local 2121 of the United Auto Workers, which represents about 1,200 dealers.

    b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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