Augustine Casino in Coachella announced Thursday it would be laying off 75 employees and furloughing 210 others in response to losing millions of dollars in revenue since closing its doors due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The move affects some 93% of the casino’s total workforce, General Manager Jef Bauer told City News Service.
Bauer said the casino has lost “tens of millions of dollars” since closing on March 15, when it became the first casino in the Coachella Valley to voluntarily close in the face of the pandemic.
“And it’s not going to be something we can recover in the first 10 months of being open,” he said. “It will take years to recover the amount of money lost.”
With the closure, the Augustine Band of Cahuilla Indians, which declined to comment for this article, has continued to pay employees wages and health benefits, hoping the pandemic would subside and allow the casino to reopen again.
Prior to closing its doors, Bauer said the casino was on a solid financial footing, including March numbers that were close to breaking past records.
“January and February were great months for us,” he said. “And March was on a near-record pace when we got to the week of closure. We were exceeding all expectations.”
Furloughed employees will continue to receive benefits, including health insurance.
The targeted departments include valet services, table games and food and beverage services, Bauer said.
Bauer said the casino is aiming for a June 1 reopening date, which is subject to change.
However, Augustine Casino, which opened in 2002 as the tribe’s first business enterprise, may not look the same even after it opens again.
Bauer said the casino will most likely reopen with slot play only, without table games or food and beverage service, in order to get the “revenue flowing,” he said.
According to the tribe, the casino floor boasts some 800 slot machines.
Buffets will probably not be offered again, he said, and table games will take a few months to come back into the mix, as well.
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