MGM Resorts, the largest employer in Nevada, may lay off staff already furloughed. The gaming company furloughed almost 63,000 employees in March when Gov. Steve Sisolak ordered all nonessential businesses including casinos to close to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Now the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports that furloughed employees received notifications on Tuesday that the furloughs could “last more than six months or become permanent.”
President and acting CEO Bill Hornbuckle told furloughed employees in a letter that declining travel in the future triggered the notice of potential layoffs.
The notifications come as the tourism industry faces a grave uphill battle once the governor and Nevada Gaming Control Board allow casinos to reopen. Nevada still has a stay-at-home order through May 15, and the governor says that casinos cannot open until phase three or four of his plan to reopen the state for business. Sisolak says Nevada is in phase zero of reopening.
In 2018, 56 million people visited Nevada and spent $65.5 billion, up from $63.7 billion the year before, according to the Nevada Department of Tourism & Cultural Affairs, part of TravelNevada. Investopedia estimates that Las Vegas alone generated $60 billion of tourist revenue overall in 2018, and the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority reports that Las Vegas is home too 367,900 workers in in the hospitality industry, about 37.6 percent of the jobs in Clark County. An estimated 42 million people visited the city in 2019, attending nearly 24,000 conventions, the tourism organization reports.
MGM Resorts already announced that the Bellagio, New York-New York, and perhaps one other resort would open when given the OK by the state, leaving thousands who will continue to be out of work. In 2019, the company estimated that it employed about 70,000.
When the state permits casinos to reopen, the Nevada Gaming Control Board says they need to cap capacity at 50 percent to limit the number of people inside.
The RJ reports that furloughed employees who are enrolled in the company’s health plan will continue to receive benefits with no employee premium contribution through Aug. 31, an extension beyond the original June 30 deadline.
The company also has an emergency grant for employees hard hit by the shutdown. Employees can apply to the $13 million fund for help with ongoing expenses such as mortgage payments, rent, utility bills, and groceries.