Researchers informed the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) that casino operators were among the businesses that felt the most serious negative effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. However, the unfortunate impacts of their prolonged shutdowns because of social distancing measures in the state were not spread evenly among the staff working there.
In 2021, the state’s gambling regulatory body initiated a study of the coronavirus pandemic’s economic effects so now, experts from the Economic & Public Policy Research Group of the UMass Donahue Institute officially presented their findings to the watchdog.
According to the results of the study, female employees and workers of color were the most affected by casino lay-offs, as gambling businesses struggled to remain committed to their minority- and women-owned vendors during the pandemic. Researchers also noted that the number of casino visitors had still not returned to pre-pandemic levels. The MGC’s Director of Research and Responsible Gambling, Mark Vander Linden, explained that the ripple effect of Covid-19 had been quite large and had been felt throughout the state’s gambling industry but things were getting better.
Number of Massachusetts Casino Visitors Remain Lower than Pre-Pandemic Levels
As revealed by one of the senior research analysts at the UMass Donahue Institute, Thomas Peake, revealed that casino visitation had not returned to pre-pandemic levels as of June 2021.
However, the group of researchers found that Massachusetts’ gambling facilities had seen a recovery in their gross gaming revenue to pre-pandemic levels by last summer. The three casinos generated overall gross gaming revenue of $84.1 million for June 2021 in comparison to $80.25 million over the first month of the previous year.
Furthermore, Mr. Peake noted that gross gaming revenue was marking a faster increase than the number of people visiting any of the three licensed casinos in the state, which suggested that casino patrons’ gambling behavior has changed following the reopening of the Massachusetts casinos. According to him, there could be a number of reasons why the increase in the gross gaming revenue generated by each visitor, including problem gambling or simply some people spending more money on gambling at the time following a long period of closures in the sector.
According to the report, average casino patrons’ spending was as much as two times the amount of money they used to spend before the pandemic.
Most Vulnerable Workers Suffer the Worst Effects of Covid-19 Pandemic
As far as the casino workforce is concerned, the three licensed casinos in Massachusetts – MGM Springfield, Plainridge Park Casino and Encore Boston Harbor – employed a total of 6,520 people. In mid-March 2020, all three of them were forced to cease operations because of the Covid-19 lockdown and, unfortunately, they did not manage to get back to full-capacity operations for over a year.
The lengthy closures and social distancing measures resulted in a quick decline in the employment at Massachusetts casinos and slots parlors. Encore Boston Harbor reduced its workers from 4,206 to 1,854. There were also lay-offs in the two other casinos in the state – MGM Springfield cut its workforce from 1,909 employees to 149 only, while Plaindirge Park’s employees were reduced from 416 to just 18.
Furthermore, according to the recently announced research results, the casino employees who stayed in place through the lockdown were predominantly male and white than the workforce before the beginning of the pandemic. This basically means that female workers and people of color felt the negative effects of the coronavirus pandemic disproportionately, with this reflecting a broader trend across the commonwealth. The latest research proved that low-wage workers, women, young people, and people of color, who are usually considered more vulnerable for various socio-economic reasons, were the ones who felt the negative effect of the local casino closures the most.
Still, the three casino licensees have rebounded after hiring back some of the laid-off employees. As revealed by the researchers, Encore Boston Harbor had managed to recover to 63% of its workforce levels from January 2020 – a total of 2,648 workers, Plainridge Park had recovered 61% of its workforce from the pre-pandemic levels – a total of 252 people, while MGM Springfield had recovered 48% of the January 2020 levels of its workforce – 921 employees.