Casinos all around the world are struggling to hold on until the worldwide shutdown due to the continuing coronavirus pandemic. On Monday, the Vice President of Penn National Gaming, a giant in the casino industry, weighed in on the health crisis.
Penn National Gaming (PNG) has 41 casinos and hotels in 19 states, and they own Hollywood Casinos at Charles Town Races in West Virginia. Eric Schippers, the Senior Vice President of Public Affairs & Government for Penn National Gaming, gave a status report of sorts for the company.
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Casinos Struggling To Survive Closure
Schippers said, “The company has been forced to furlough over 23,000 employees, including 1,300 at the Hollywood Casino in Charles Town.” Schippers participated in a video interview with Metro News Talkline on Monday.
The VP of PNG painted a gloomy picture of the future of casinos and other facets of the gaming industry. Schipper said employees of PNG were paid through June 30.
The VP also indicated that the company has set up an emergency fund to help its “team members” manage their day-to-day bills. The fund has already dispersed over $1.4 million to team members who have applied for funds.
Schippers conveyed, “the aim of the company at this point is to keep as many liquid assets in place, so when the industry starts up again, they will have the capital to jump right in.”
Gaming Experts Predict Tough Road Ahead
The problem with this entire health crisis, according to Schippers and other gaming experts, is the complete unpredictability of when things will resume. They made it clear that it’s not just the casinos and sports but all industries that have to get back on track so that people have their jobs and an income.
Schippers also talked about how the day-to-day operations are commencing during the lockdown. He said, “We’ve had to freeze all spending. We’re looking at it and have announced, we’ve restructured our rent payments with our landlords, which is a real estate investment trust. We had to sell one of our properties in Las Vegas, which was in a sale leaseback.”
Schippers and some gaming experts also weighed in on the future of casinos, saying they have been researching other countries that seemed to be on the mend. Schippers conveyed that he has been paying very close attention to the situation in Macau, China.
He said although these countries are starting to have fewer new cases of the coronavirus and a sharp decline in deaths, the “fix is far from instant.”
Schippers gave the interview from his home office and said that the business structure in those countries is still not operating at anywhere close to 100%. He offered, “There is some light at the end of this tunnel.”
When Does The US Situation Improve?
Schippers and others say this is far from the Great Depression of the 1920s, which started in the United States in 1929 and reached all corners of the world by the time it was over in 1939. The pandemic has been compared to the Great Depression by many economic experts, but Schippers says, not so fast, this is not going to last 10-plus years.
Most health experts predict the path of destruction due to the coronavirus will end by November or early next year. Gaming experts say to compare the financial consequences of this and the Great Depression is ridiculous.
The economy in the US was very strong prior to the virus surfacing, and gaming analysts have said it’s like comparing apples to oranges.
PNG has a plan in place for bringing back employees. A lot will depend on when the social distancing protocols are lifted. Schippers said the safety and health of their employees and guests is always their first priority and always will be.
Some of their plans for reopening their casinos include having limits on the number of players in the poker rooms, turning off every other slot machine, and installing specialized sanitizing equipment that operates on a timer.