WATERLOO — Nina Perkins found out Thursday she will be going back to work at del Lago Resort & Casino for the first time in nearly six months.
It was welcome news for the Geneva resident, a cleaner at the Tyre casino.
“I can’t wait to get to work,” Perkins said during a rally at the Seneca County Office Building that was planned before Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced state-licensed casinos can open Sept. 9, albeit at 25% capacity and with other restrictions. “I’m the only one bringing in money in my household. The unemployment is barely enough to pay the rent.”
Perkins was one of about 100 casino workers, from all over the state, who attended the rally. It was organized by Valerie McIntyre, a table game supervisor at del Lago who organized a similar rally last month at the casino.
“Twenty-five percent is better than zero percent ... but we will not stop this fight until we get all our people back to work,” she said. “While we have been loud so far, we must be louder.”
Speakers Thursday included Bob Hayssen, chairman of the county Board of Supervisors, and Tyre Supervisor Ron McGreevy.
“The closure of del Lago has been devastating to the town of Tyre, Seneca County and the whole region,” said McGreevy, noting that Native American casinos have been open since June. “We just want to be treated fairly.”
“You all look like essential workers who want to go back to work,” Hayssen added.
Cuomo had been expected to make an announcement Friday on the fate of four upstate non-Native casinos — including del Lago — and 11 racinos in the state that have been closed since March 16. Representatives from several of those businesses were at the press conference.
“This is our first win,” said Robin Torr, a manager at Tioga Downs. “Twenty-five percent is a little disappointing, but encouraging just the same.”
“The sad fact is that not every worker is going to return,” added Greg Mallette, a manager at Vernon Downs. “If we keep pushing, everybody will come back.”
More than 1,100 workers at del Lago have been furloughed since mid-March. Rally organizers said the number is more than 5,200 including the other casinos and racinos.
In addition to the 25% capacity, table games will not be allowed unless physical barriers are installed between patrons. Slot machines will be open, but players must be spaced at least six feet apart.
Casinos are only allowed to open up if they install enhanced air-filtration systems, and masks and social distancing will be required as well. The state Gaming Commission will have jurisdiction over enforcing the health and safety guidelines, as well as state police.
Tom Murray, owner of Muranda Cheese Company and president of the Seneca County Chamber of Commerce board of directors, urged casino managers to make sure their sites comply with the state directives so they don’t get shut down again.
“This is the first positive step in getting people back to work ... but we have to take baby steps, like we did with tourism in the county. We must be vigilant,” he said. “We need to lead by safety, not instigation.”
Lance Young, executive vice president and general manager of del Lago, sent the following statement by email: “del Lago Resort & Casino is ready to open safely. We have comprehensive safety guidelines, known as our EXTRA CARE Program, to ensure the welfare of every guest and team member. del Lago Resort & Casino applauds Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Gaming Commission for their leadership during the COVID-19 crisis, and we are thankful for their partnership in preparation to welcome back our team and guests. We look forward to opening our doors and bringing back economic benefits to the Finger Lakes.”