Nearly one year ago, Covid-19 brought our dynamic, thriving industry to a screeching halt. The cancellation of an NBA game and March Madness was followed by months of shuttered doors at every one of the nation’s 989 casinos, wiping out supplier demand and idling 650,000 gaming employees.
During these most challenging months, however, the industry shined. In a new American Gaming Association (AGA) report, “Casinos & Communities: Covid-19 Response,” we reflect on all the ways our industry stepped up to support our communities and employees despite the deep economic challenges of the pandemic.
The industry’s efforts to aid America’s Covid-19 response began immediately, helping solve nationwide shortages of personal protective equipment and testing. Las Vegas Sands imported 2 million masks for health care workers in Nevada and New York, while casino operators like Boyd Gaming, Foxwoods Casino and Wynn Resorts contributed hundreds of thousands of additional protective supplies for front-line workers across the U.S. MGM Resorts was able to leverage its vast supply chain to distribute and store Covid-19 tests across southern Nevada, and properties from Twin River Casino in Rhode Island to Chickasaw Nation’s WinStar World in Oklahoma served as testing centers for local residents.
Following abrupt property closures, operators utilized their resources to the benefit of first responders and gaming communities. Operators from Atlantic City to California and everywhere in between donated millions of meals to neighbors in need. Instead of remaining dark, properties like Penn National’s Greektown Casino in Detroit opened their doors to provide housing to first responders on the front lines of fighting the pandemic.
Gaming’s commitment to responsibility starts with our employees, and that was even more important during this difficult year. Many operators and suppliers paid employees and extended benefits through closures. Aristocrat Technologies, William Hill US and DraftKings Inc., among others, set up emergency relief funds to provide financial assistance to current and former employees.
We are now leading the next phase in America’s battle against Covid-19. Together, operators and suppliers have written the blueprint for businesses to responsibly reopen, establishing rigorous testing and contact tracing protocols to keep customers and employees safe and slow the spread of Covid-19 in our communities. And our guests are taking notice: about 80 percent of future visitors say the gaming industry has done a good job at safely reopening.
As you read this, casino operators are using facilities to serve as vaccination sites and pioneering innovative ways to bring large events back to our properties via rapid testing—both important steps in our economic recovery.
We are immensely proud to represent this innovative industry whose collective efforts have improved the health, safety and well-being of our communities. Gaming’s role as a community partner, trusted employer and economic engine have never been more important. As we focus on accelerating gaming’s recovery, the AGA will work to ensure your many contributions in these important areas are well-understood.