Foxwoods Resort and Casino in Mashantucket, Connecticut, is one of the largest casinos in the world. Run by the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, the doors have never been closed since 1992 – until now. The resulting loss of income has had a devastating effect on over 5,000 people who work there as well as the tribal community.
Impossible to Work at Home
The chairman of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, Rodney Butler, walks through the vast, empty halls of the once-lively Foxwoods. All 4,500 of the slot machines are turned off, and the absence of all the jingling and jangling makes for a deafening silence.
Unlike some jobs, where telecommuting is an option, casinos can’t set up work-at-home plans.
“It’s impossible to work at home when it’s a one-on-one interaction and I’m serving you a meal or I’m dealing you cards and showing you a great time,” Butler said.
Since Foxwoods closed, all 5,000 employees have been furloughed, resulting in 99% unemployment for the reservation.
“Nobody’s paying rent, so we have no gaming income. No lease income,” Butler said. “There’s no tax base here on the reservation. So it’s costing us a couple of million a week just to stay closed.”
Tribal gaming has tranformed many tribal reservations from shanty towns to thriving communities. Now, that is under threat. Tribal casinos provide what the Federal government does not, so many gaming tribes depend on tribal casinos for their livelihood.
Plans for Reopening
Normally, Foxwoods welcomes 15,000 to 20,000 people every day plus the 5,000 people who work there. Now, casinos are undergoing thorough safety measures to ready for eventual reopening.
Hand sanitizer will be available everywhere, and every other slot machine will remain closed in order to maintain social distancing among patrons. Also, buffets will remain closed for safety reasons.
Foxwoods will also employ plexiglass partitions at gaming tables and cut the number of players at each table in half. The casino will also swap out cards more frequently and sanitize chips for safety purposes.
Foxwoods is more than just a casino. It is a full entertainment and hospitality experience under one massive roof. The largest entertainment venue on the premises seats 4,000 and has hosted major stars. But these theaters will remain closed for safety reasons.
Monique Sebastian, vice president of entertainment, laments the loss of the entertainment venues in Foxwoods.
“Entertainment provides something you cannot find anywhere else,” she said. “It makes you feel alive. It makes you happy and sad, and it takes you back to a different place. … It makes you relive memories.”
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