Governor Polis’ March closure of large gathering spaces put hundreds of casino workers out of work. Some have been furloughed and others have been laid off altogether. Casinos in the state as of this writing will remain closed until at least May 31, with more guidance expected in the coming weeks. While the unemployment numbers tell an alarming story, real stories from real people uncover the impact of the coronavirus outbreak, mandatory closures, and the communities that have come together in the wake of the pandemic.
The Days Leading Up To The Closure
Monarch Casino was one of the large gathering places closed on Tuesday, March 17. According to some of its dealers, the closure wasn’t exactly a surprise. Casino attendance dropped noticeably over the weekend:
“Starting from Friday, Saturday those [days] seemed pretty normal, about 10% less people. Sunday was significantly less,” says Monarch casino dealer, Arthur Cheung.
Monarch dual rate dealer Steven Solivan III noticed the decline among specific casino patrons. “I remember one night, I went in and I talked to about four or five of my tables, my players. And every table was talking about how they probably won’t be coming in the following week, because they are elder players, and they can’t take the risk of being sick.”
The casino patrons gave Monarch Casino some warning about the impact of the coronavirus. But how did Monarch respond to the new concerns among its patrons?
How Monarch Responded Before The Closure
Monarch Casino took the coronavirus outbreak seriously from the beginning. “Monarch was very strict and very quick to act on it,” says Solivan. “They were making sure everyone was using hand sanitizer, making sure that everyone was not coughing. Just trying to make sure that everything was as clean as possible.”
That wasn’t the only way that Monarch tried to keep its employees and patrons safe. Arthur observed some of the social distancing measures first-hand “We kept on losing chairs on tables ‘cause we wanted to keep people distant from each other.”
However, the governor’s order gave Monarch no choice in how to respond next. Once the governor announced the mandatory closures, Monarch Casino management let its employees know. On March 17, employees began their first 30 days on furlough.
How Peers And Loved Ones Reacted To The Furloughs
Each lost job creates a ripple effect that impacts coworkers and loved ones. Of course, the anxiety surrounding the closure was palpable. “I’d seen one of my bosses was nervous, but everybody else seemed pretty okay,” says Arthur. “I mean, there are a couple people who were afraid that they weren’t gonna be able to make ends meet, because they didn’t have any income. But overall, people took it better than what I would have expected.”
Steven also noticed the worry among his coworkers. “I remember seeing on Facebook a lot of coworkers that I’m friends with who were freaking out, asking a lot of questions to other people, asking a lot of opinions of other people.” But he also saw how supportive the community around him became. “It was kinda nice seeing everyone’s comments, and seeing how like my friends in the community, the people they knew were putting their opinions in trying to help people out in multiple ways, and kinda coming together before it got too wild. And before the stimulus check was an actual thing.”
Families have come together to support each other, too. Steven’s mother is an essential worker in San Diego, but she’s still looking out for her boy in Colorado. “She made sure that I had all the letters and everything sent to me. She read over everything. She really helped me out and made sure I was taken care of.”
If there’s ever been a time to band together, it’s during the uncertain period of the coronavirus pandemic.
What’s The Hardest Part About Being On Furlough?
Everybody is handling the casino furloughs their own way. Some time and energy are being spent preparing for the future. “I’m moving to a different state, so I’ve been working on that,” Arthur says. “Packing and all that.”
However, not everybody has a project with an external deadline, and searching for things to do is one of the hardest parts of furlough. Solivan has observed that challenge in his network, too. “Some of them are just, you know, going bonkers in their house because they can’t do anything.”
What are some of these things that casino workers are trying to replace work with? “Puzzles, you know, big thing,” Solivan says. “TikTok, social media, and stuff like that.” Anything to kill time or advance a project that’s been in the back of your mind for a while. But finding something to do seems to be a vital coping mechanism for the weeks of isolation.
How Optimistic Are They About Their Careers?
It may be hard to imagine being optimistic about work right now, but these casino workers have a great deal of faith in their jobs. Arthur will still be a dealer in Arizona when he moves, but Arizona has its own reopening timeline. What does Solivan think of his career in Colorado?
“I’m actually pretty optimistic,” Solivan says. “Just for the fact that Monarch is in the process of opening their new hotel.”
Monarch’s new expansion has important consequences for its employees. To prepare for the new hotel, Monarch has committed to not laying off its employees. It’s an aggressive move to position itself as a customer service leader when the casinos reopen. If it opens on time and fully staffed, the customers who do visit the new casino will be well cared for. But the customers won’t be the only beneficiaries.
Employees certainly don’t mind, either. “Being part of a bigger hotel definitely makes me feel a lot better and a lot more optimistic when I return,” Solivan says. It likely does make a big difference to not only be at a large casino, but also at a particularly optimistic one.
How Can Workers On Furlough Make It Through This Difficult Time?
Casino workers were forced onto furlough–at least, those who weren’t laid off entirely–but they aren’t the only ones going through this. Millions of workers across the United States have gone from busy offices to isolated homes. These casino workers have some advice for anyone struggling to make it through quarantine.
“Try to spend the free time you have now focused on something good, like side projects you might have always wanted to work on,” Solivan says. Anyone who doesn’t have other commitments mid-pandemic can put some time to a pet project they’ve been working on. Putting an hour a day towards a new side venture would be a fantastic use of time for those who have it.
He also has practical advice for workers who’ve suddenly had their pay periods upended. “Write down dates. ‘Cause I know with me being on unemployment, I’m not on the same pay period as I would be if I was at Monarch working my regular hours.” Knowing the new dates that workers have to pay their bills is a great way to adjust to new financial realities–provided there’s a source of income to match. It’s certainly easier for one person to make ends meet on unemployment than a family of four.
Arthur is a little more blunt. “Do your part. Stay home so we can all get out of this.”
If that’s not advice for the ages, nothing is.
So How Are Monarch Casino’s Employees Doing?
Although being on furlough isn’t easy for anyone, Monarch Casino’s employees are making the best of a difficult situation. They’ve navigated the challenges of furlough together. They’ve advised each other through the financial changes as best they can. But most of all, they’ve come together as a community and supported one another throughout this unprecedented challenge.
While the two employees quoted here are only two out of the hundreds of employees Monarch, they seem to agree on one thing. Although there was palpable anxiety in the air surrounding the closure, the community came together to help each other thrive until some semblance of normalcy finally returns.