600 Tioga Downs Employees Warned Jobs Will Be Terminated in September


While the doors to Tioga Downs remain closed to the public, American Racing and Entertainment has taken the difficult but legally required step to send warning notices to more than 600 employees at Tioga Downs in Nichols. notifying them that they will be terminated at the end of September.

Considering Governor Cuomo’s recent announcement that casinos and movie theaters in New York State will remain closed while the state government continues to review the requirements for a safe reopening, Jeff Gural, chairman of American Racing and Entertainment, said that he is very concerned for his team members that have been unfortunately furloughed due to the coronavirus pandemic since mid-March.

According to the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act, an employee that has been temporarily laid off (or furloughed), will automatically be terminated at the six-month mark. Most of Gural’s employees at Tioga Downs have been furloughed since mid-March and will surpass the six-month mark as of late September or early October. While the current furloughed employees are financially managing with federal benefits such as the CARES Act, these benefits are quickly coming to an end as of July 31. 

With the significant drop in benefits and financial support, Gural feels it is more important than ever to get them back to work. While obviously this has been a financial disaster for the company, Gural is also concerned about the safety of customers who are traveling elsewhere.

“While I think we all agree the Governor has done an amazing job by using facts to virtually eliminate the virus in upstate New York, including the Southern Tier, where on most days we see almost no one testing positive, it may seem counterintuitive but it is actually less safe to keep the upstate casinos closed. We know for a fact that our customers are not sitting home waiting for us to reopen. They are simply getting in their cars and driving to casinos in areas where the transmission rate is far higher. 

“The closest casino to Tioga Downs is in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, where they have a meat packing plant. Another option is Atlantic City, where we know the number of people testing positive is higher than in the Southern Tier. These casinos allow far more customers, and unlike casinos upstate, do not have representatives of the Gaming Commission on the floor to monitor the implementation of the rules and regulations that have been set. The last thing we want is for these people to bring the virus back to the Southern Tier from outside the region. 

“We are prepared and both casinos are in the process of upgrading their filters to MERV-13 filters for their HVAC systems as recommended for shopping centers. We are additionally arranging for COVID-19 antibody testing for all employees prior to coming back to work to prevent the spread of the virus. Once we receive approval from the State to open our doors, both casinos are additionally setting up protocols to monitor guests to ensure that if they have recently visited or are coming from a high-risk state or local zip code where there is a spike, they will be excluded from the facilities. We have also retained the services of Well Health Safety for Clean Air-System and Core Management Services, a local Binghamton company, to monitor all our equipment and cleaning protocols.

“Part of my decision to open casinos in Upstate New York was inspired by my commitment to supporting this community and being part of a positive economic driver for the area. My primary concern is for my employees, and it pains me to send them this notice when I know they have already been out of work for some time and are relying on benefits to support their families. I fully understand the necessity to keep both our staff and our guests healthy by closing for now, but I am eagerly anticipating safely getting everyone back to work soon.”