Louisiana Casinos Laying Off Thousands of Employees

  • Penn National is laying off over 1,100 employees at four Louisiana casinos
  • Boyd Gaming already released more than 1,500 Louisiana staff members
  • DiamondJacks casino closed permanently in May
  • Lawmakers passed a casino tax relief bill in June to try to ease the strain
Business woman in mask holding belongings after being laid off
Louisiana casinos have announced thousands of layoffs in recent weeks, a byproduct of the pandemic casino closures and subsequent lower customer traffic upon reopening. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Reduced business leads to reduced staffing

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken its toll on Louisiana casinos, and now furloughed workers are rapidly becoming unemployed workers as casinos announce permanent layoffs.

Among the most recent to make the bad news public is Boomtown Casino in Harvey, which said via a required Worker Adjustment and Retraining Act (WARN) notice that it plans to lay off 197 employees on August 15.

Penn National announces 1,100 layoffs

On Sunday, Penn National, the owner of Boomtown, said that it furloughed 26,000 employees nationwide during the pandemic shutdowns, hoping to get most of them back to work. Senior vice president of public affairs and government relations Eric Shippers explained that “it could be some time before all of our remaining properties are open.”

properties that are open will unfortunately not require the same level of staffing”

He added: “[T]hose properties that are open will unfortunately not require the same level of staffing due to limitations and restrictions placed on occupancy and offerings to create a safer environment.”

Penn National has announced more than 1,100 permanent layoffs at its Louisiana casinos, all taking effect on August 15. In addition to the 197 at Boomtown, Penn National posted WARN notices for L’Auberge Casino Hotel in Baton Rouge (161 layoffs), L’Auberge in Lake Charles (441), and Margaritaville Resort Casino in Bossier City (347).

DiamondJacks already closed for good

The hurt doesn’t stop with Penn National properties. In May, Boyd Gaming announced a rash of layoffs via Louisiana’s WARN system, all of which took effect last week.

Five of the company’s gambling venues had to let more than 1,500 total employees go, including Sam’s Town Shreveport (414 layoffs), Treasure Chest Casino in Kenner (340), Amelia Belle Casino in Amelia (170), Delta Downs Racetrack Casino and Hotel in Vinton (354), and Evangeline Downs Racetrack Casino in Opelousas (246). The Cypress Bayou Casino Hotel, operated by the Chitimacha Tribe of Louisiana. also laid off 229 staff members.

continuing to operate is not viable from a business standpoint”

In mid-May, DiamondJacks Hotel & Casino in Bossier City announced, right when the state’s casinos were allowed to reopen, that it would remain permanently closed.

“Even though continuing to operate is not viable from a business standpoint,” DiamondJacks’ vice president of finance Diana Thornton said, “we have certainly enjoyed being a part of the community and appreciate the loyalty of both guests and team members.”

Lawmakers trying to lessen the pain

The Louisiana legislature has been trying to help the state’s casinos get through the pandemic. Even with all casinos now open (less DiamondJacks), gambling traffic, and in turn, revenue, is down. In June, both the House and Senate passed a relief bill that would save casinos an estimated $83m in taxes over five years.

The bill allows casinos to issue up to $5m in promotional credits per year tax-free. Such credits include things like free slot play that help attract customers to casinos, but though they cost nothing to the guest, the casino still must normally count them as revenue. Gross gaming revenue, the money the casino makes after paying out winnings, is taxed at 21.5%.

Governor John Bel Edwards has yet to sign the bill into law.

The governor did sign Senate Bill 130 in June, which will put sports betting on the November ballot. The vote will be on a parish-by-parish basis, giving residents local control over whether or not sports betting becomes legal. It could still be a couple of years until sports betting launches in the state, however, even if the bill does pass in one or more parishes.