Casino layoffs account for more than 3,500 jobs lost in Baltimore area


A new notice filed with the state puts a number on the job losses at one of Maryland's biggest casinos since the coronavirus pandemic forced its closure.

Live Casino & Hotel laid off 2,400 employees in mid-March, according to a notice filed to the state's Work Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) log on Tuesday. The Hanover casino has been closed since March 15, when Gov. Larry Hogan ordered all six of Maryland's casinos, as well as race tracks and simulcast betting facilities, to shut down amid a growing number of coronavirus cases in the state.

The closures have resulted in mass job losses at facilities that count as major local employers.

In Baltimore, Horseshoe Casino laid off 1,230 employees March 16, right after the governor's order was announced, according to a notice filed in April. MGM National Harbor resort and casino in Prince George's County laid off at least 85 employees, though the Las Vegas-based casino operator did provide two weeks' severance and an extension of health benefits through June 30 to those furloughed.

Though expected, the numbers add to the staggering total job loss attributable to the pandemic, which has hit the hospitality industry especially hard. In Maryland, at least 13,000 hotel workers are out of work, as well as some 150,000 restaurant workers as people stay home to prevent the spread of the virus.

A portion of gaming revenue also goes to public education and local community initiatives, but those contributions have zeroed out with casinos closed. The state's six casinos generated more than $145 million in gaming revenue in April 2019, yielding a state revenue of more than $60 million. More than $45 million of that total went into a trust fund for public schools.

Gov. Larry Hogan did not single out casinos in his three-part plan to reopen the state. The facilities might fall under under the category of "entertainment venues" that could return as part of the final, "high risk" stage, which the governor said would only come when there is a vaccine or an effective treatment for the coronavirus.

Hogan moved to lift the state's stay-at-home order this week and eased restrictions on some activities, such as haircuts, manufacturing, religious gatherings and retail shopping under certain conditions, starting at 5 p.m. Friday. Some local jurisdictions, including Baltimore City, have decided to keep the stay-at-home order intact.

A spokeswoman for Live Hotel & Casino said the facility did not have a specific timetable from the state for reopening casinos, but added that Live was ready to bring back employees and enact a new set of safety and hygiene standards when given the green light from officials.

"We are fully ready to re-open our facility and bring back our team members as soon as government authorities allow us to do so," spokeswoman Carmen Gonzales said in an email. "We have developed best-in-class health and safety policies and procedures that will facilitate ample social distancing, reduced occupancies and robust hygiene and health measures for our guests and team members."

Gonzales said Live could divide its facility into "fully separated 'mini casinos,' each with significantly reduced occupancies," to encourage further distancing.

"Our goal is to work in partnership with the state to do everything necessary to begin to bring back needed jobs and taxes to Maryland as soon as possible," she said.

Elsewhere in the country, some casinos have begun to make their return. Some Oklahoma casinos reopened slots on Friday, though table games, hotels, and seated food remain unavailable. In Louisiana, casinos were allowed to open 50% of their games, including slot machines and table games, as of Friday.