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Laid-off MGM Springfield workers could lose their jobs permanently if coronavirus crisis persists

In a letter to employees, the parent company’s CEO cited uncertainty over how quickly the casino business might rebound.

The MGM Springfield casino in that city's downtown.Charles Krupa/Associated Press

Furloughed workers at MGM Springfield and other casinos owned by MGM Resorts could lose their jobs permanently if the company does not quickly recover from the shutdowns and economic upheaval brought about by the coronavirus.

The company in March furloughed about 63,000 of its 70,000-person US staff amid a wave of casino closures around the country.

But in a notice to employees this week, acting chief executive Bill Hornbuckle said it’s no sure thing that the business will rebound quickly enough to guarantee that the jobs will ever return. The company said it would continue to fully pay employees health benefits through August 31, when it may begin to permanently lay off those who haven’t been called back to work.

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“When our industry bounces back, we will welcome you with open arms. However, we understand you may find permanent employment elsewhere," Hornbuckle’s letter said. “We encourage you to do whatever is best for you and your families during this challenging time.”

The notice is a reminder of the pace at which the COVID-19 pandemic has ravaged the casino and hospitality industries, which may continue to struggle even if they are allowed to open with reduced capacity to safeguard against the spread of the virus.

“I don’t think a lot of people should expect business to come back to anywhere near where it was pre-COVID for a long time,” said New Jersey casino consultant Alan R. Woinski, president of Gaming USA Corp. “Some people are still going to stay home. Some people just don’t have the money to gamble anymore.”

Encore Boston Harbor owner Wynn Resorts has kept all of its employees on the payroll so far, and this week extended that arrangement through the end of May. Penn National Gaming, which operates the Plainridge Park slots casino in Plainville, has also furloughed most workers and is paying for benefits through June.

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MGM Resorts declined to say how many employees it has furloughed at its Springfield site, which had a work force around 2,000 at the end of last year.

The $960 million Springfield property opened in 2018 with high hopes that it would spur an economic revitalization for the city’s downtown. Before it closed in March, however, the casino had not been generating the amount of revenue it had anticipated, and the company had already reduced its work force by hundreds since it started operating.

Mayor Domenic J. Sarno said he is trying to help the casino and other businesses in Springfield reopen safely as soon as possible.

“During these challenging times, whether in the private and/or public sector, workforce adjustments are now being made, as we move towards new economic and living normalcy,” he said in a statement. "Hopefully, besides being efficient, effective and strategic, compassion comes into play too.”





Andy Rosen can be reached at andrew.rosen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @andyrosen.