Indiana Casino Workers Demand Workplace Safety
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Indiana Casino Workers Demand Workplace Safety

Indiana Casino Workers Demand Workplace Safety

Indiana gaming workers have held an online rally to call for better health and safety measures before casinos in the state reopen. 

Casino employees from across the state who attended the virtual event last Friday via Facebook asked for better health insurance and more cleaning.

Indiana Chapter President for UNITE HERE Local 23 Stuart Mora told the NWI Times, “Thousands of Indiana’s casino workers without affordable health care shouldn’t have to choose between paying bills and getting medical treatment in the midst of a global pandemic.”

“They dedicate their lives to welcoming and caring for Hoosiers year after year. Indiana’s gaming employers must step up and care for their workers.”

The union, which represents a myriad of casino workers including those at Blue Chip Casino in Michigan City and Ameristar East Chicago, noted the huge revenue operators raked in last year.

Penn National Gaming made $5.3 billion in 2019, while Caesars Southern Indiana, Majestic Star, Ameristar, and Indiana Grand casinos generated over $66 million in state gaming tax revenue during the first three months of 2020.

Now, UNITE HERE is calling for operators to use some of that money to make casinos safer for workers when lockdown measures are eased.

Majestic Star Casino bartender Tina Mack said, “The way my co-workers and my company have been helping each other out during this crisis — I’ve never been prouder to work here.

“I want to be proud of how the casinos reopen, too. I want to be able to tell my customers that Majestic Star is safe for them to come back.”

Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb has announced a five-step plan to have the state fully running by July 4, with casinos expected to reopen in the latter stages.

The Horseshoe Casino in Hammond, named one of the best road trips from Chicago, has already announced plans to reopen on June 14, while Tropicana Evansville and Ellis Park are developing reopening schedules. 

For now, gamblers are relying on online casinos to play their favorite games and slots.

The Casino Association of Indiana is reported to have shared a set of “minimum standards” for worker and guest safety with the Indiana Gaming Commission, but employees remain worried about how the ease in lockdown restrictions will affect their health.

Table games have come as a large concern for many, with numerous customers and staff forced to handle chips and cards regularly.

Slot attendant at Caesars Southern Indiana Anjila Gaudet said, “I’m scared to go back to work because one of our co-workers on the property already died from COVID-19, and he was working with us right before the shutdown.”

“If we’re going to reopen, I want public health experts to be guiding us in what we should be doing.”

Indiana Grand bartender Terri Mitchell agreed: “I have COPD, diabetes, and fibromyalgia, which weakens my immune system. I already struggle to get the health care I need because my health insurance has a $2,800 deductible. I’m terrified that if this virus gets me, I won’t get to see my grandbabies grow up.”

The executive director of the state’s casino association Matt Bell told the Courier Press, “There will be things like hand sanitizer stations throughout the floor. It’s going to be important our team members and guests have an opportunity to wear masks.”

“We’ll set up our floors to accommodate social distancing, and that could look different casino to casino. Whether it’s occupying every other slot machine, or moving them to provide social distancing. We could do things like limit folks at a particular table game.” 

“We’ll have aggressive cleaning procedures, wiping down machines, tables, and rails, trying to minimize touchpoints.”

The state of Indiana has reported 22,503 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 1,295 deaths. 

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