Detroit Casino Employees Will Join Michigan’s Unemployed In April

Written By Matt Schoch on March 31, 2020
Casino Detroit open closed

Workers from Detroit’s three casinos will join thousands of Michiganians as new members of the growing unemployed class this April.

Since shutting down in mid-March because of the spreading coronavirus, Greektown Casino-Hotel, MGM Grand Detroit and MotorCity Casino committed to paying its employees for a couple of weeks, while MGM had committed to two weeks of full pay after closing its doors on March 16.

This week, with the casinos being closed through at least April 13 per orders from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, the thousands of employees will be eligible to file unemployment claims. Greektown will pay its employees through Tuesday. MotorCity Casino paid its employees through Sunday.

Detroit strong

In other coronavirus news, Greektown is offering 40 of its hotel rooms to Detroit first responders who may not wish to be around family because of possible health risks.

“They are healthy, but have some concerns about going home and potentially bringing something negative to their families,” said Marvin Beatty, vice president of community and public relations at Greektown. “Our effort is really to provide a safe place for them to stay during this little period so that they can continue to protect their families from this coronavirus.

“This shows a real sign of the city’s commitment to try to make them understand some of the concerns that these people have. They’re in it every day.

“It was something that was the right thing for us, and we’re happy to be a part of the recovery.”

As reported first by The Detroit News, two full floors of the hotel, which is emblazoned these days with #DETROITSTRONG on its rooftop marquee, will be designated for Detroit police officers, firefighters and emergency medical professionals. The Detroit Police Department is coordinating the distribution of rooms.

Unemployment benefits

Greektown and MotorCity will continue to provide benefits for employees through June 30, with Beatty adding the casino will hopefully be back open by then anyways.

“We are hopeful this temporary closure will have a positive impact on stemming the tide of COVID-19,” MotorCity said in a statement provided to Playinmichigan.

The Detroit News reported MGM is working with companies, such as Amazon, to get workers temporary jobs during the closure.

In addition to regular Michigan unemployment benefits, which have a maximum of $362 per week, out-of-work casino professionals can get an additional $600 per week through the $2 trillion federal stimulus, which was signed by President Donald Trump on Friday. Benefits were also extended to 39 weeks from 26.

There were 129,298 new unemployment claims in Michigan filed the week ending March 21, up from 5,338 the previous week. More than 3 million new unemployment claims were filed nationally, dwarfing the previous record of less than 700,000.

Because of Detroit-area hospitals being at or near capacity, state officials have designated the TCF Center, formerly Cobo Hall, as a 900-bed hospital facility. The US Army Corps of Engineers scouted sites across the state, though representatives from Greektown and MotorCity Casino said they were not scouted.

Through Monday, Michigan had 6,498 confirmed COVID-19 cases, resulting in 184 deaths.

Casinos remain closed

The state’s 23 tribal casinos are also closed, though they do not fall under Whitmer’s order. Several have committed to paying their employees through the shutdown.

Little River Casino Resort in Manistee announced it “will continue to compensate (workers) during this extended closure period.”

The Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians Tribal Council announced it would pay employees of Turtle Creek in Williamsburg and Leelanau Sands in Peshawbestown through at least April 15.

Gun Lake Casino in Wayland announced it would fully compensate employees through its current shutdown, which is scheduled through April 13.

In the Upper Peninsula, the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community announced casino employees would be compensated during Ojibwa Casino closures in Marquette and Baraga through April 12. Island Resort & Casino in Harris announced employees would be compensated during the shutdown, which is expected through April 6. And, in a statement from Kewadin Casinos, which has five UP locations, said team members were provided wages during the closure, which was set to end April 14.

According to numbers provided to Playinmichigan by the American Gaming Association, at least 19,861 direct casino employees are out of work statewide. At the same time, the state could lose at least $1.05 billion in economic activity if the casinos are closed for two months.

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Matt Schoch

A Michigan native, Matt has worked at newspapers in Michigan, Missouri and the Virgin Islands. A versatile sports reporter, Matt has covered sailing on the Great Lakes, cricket in the Caribbean, high school and pro playoffs, and the Olympics in Rio. He’s also the former host of the Locked On Pistons Podcast and producer of a documentary on Emoni Bates. A former blackjack dealer, Matt has studied the industry from all sides.

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