Coronavirus forces furlough of Ameristar Casino employees

Tuesday 31st March 2020

EAST CHICAGO -- The parent company of Ameristar Casino on Wednesday is furloughing all of its East Chicago employees, and some 26,000 nationwide, due to state COVID-19 closure orders that have eliminated nearly all of its revenue.

Penn National Gaming, Inc. will continue paying its employees through Tuesday, and maintain medical benefits for enrolled employees until June 30, but no longer can afford to keep all the workers at its 41 shuttered gaming properties in 19 states on the payroll, according to a company statement.

"This decision was extremely difficult to make for all of us at Penn," said Jay Snowden, Penn National president and CEO, in a letter to company employees.

"Penn National is a family, and we deeply regret the hardship this will place on you and your loved ones. We are extremely motivated and focused on reopening our properties as soon as it is safe and legal to do so."

The Indiana Gaming Commission ordered the state's 13 commercial casinos, including the five in Northwest Indiana, to close March 16 "in the interest of public health" for "at least 14 days."

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Since that time, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb has ordered all Hoosiers to remain at home, except for essential travel, until April 7; a date likely to be extended in the days ahead.

Casinos are not considered "essential" under the governor's stay-at-home order.

No other Region casinos have announced a similar mass layoff or filed the required paperwork with the state to complete one.

Boyd Gaming, parent company of the Blue Chip Casino in Michigan City, last week announced it would stop paying its employees after April 10.

The sole tribal gaming facility in Indiana, Four Winds Casino in South Bend, said Friday it also would be closed until further notice, along with its Michigan casinos, to minimize the spread of coronavirus.

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Chief Political Reporter

Dan has reported on Indiana state government for The Times since 2009. He also covers casinos, campaigns and corruption.

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