CHARLES TOWN – More than 540 jobs at Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races, about a 40 percent cut to the gambling venue’s 1,300 workforce, will be permanently eliminated starting Aug. 15 as a fallout from the coronavirus outbreak.
Penn National Gaming, the Wyomissing, Pa., corporate owner of Hollywood Casino, reported the layoffs in a required reduction-in-force notice to the Jefferson County Commission.
The job cuts in Charles Town were among 3,100 jobs Penn National announced it will be trimming at a dozen of its other gaming properties in eight other states due to the “unprecedented circumstances” imposed by the COVID-19 operating restrictions, the company reported.
“These layoffs at Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races are the unfortunate result of COVID-19 related business circumstances that were sudden, dramatic and beyond our control,” the company’s notice states. “The impact on our business was not reasonably foreseeable until now.”
Penn National employs more than 26,000 employees at 34 casinos and nine racetracks across the country, according to the company’s website. More layoffs could be announced as more reduction-in-force letters arrive in the communities where the company operates.
Penn National furloughed all of its workers at its Charles Town casino and thoroughbred racetrack after Gov. Jim Justice temporarily shut down all gambling outlets in West Virginia on March 17 as a health precaution during the coronavirus outbreak.
Gamblers began returning to the casino in June when the casino and racetrack were allowed to reopen, but the 511,000-square-foot casino has operated with fewer workers serving smaller crowds of patrons under limited operations from pandemic safety regulations.
Hollywood Casino’s several restaurants and bars are either closed or serving limited menus. Food service workers are among the largest segment of jobs expected to be eliminated, according to one local Penn National employee.
Previously operating 24 hours a day, the casino is open daily from 8 a.m. to 4 a.m., closing for four hours each day for sanitizing and deep cleaning.
The racetrack is running thoroughbred races without spectators. Races are broadcast live online. Other live music, entertainment and banquet events are still suspended.
The Inn at Charles Town, a 153-room hotel operated by Penn National on the casino property off East Washington Street, was closed early during the virus outbreak but recently reopened.
Face masks must be worn by casino employees and patrons due to a health safety order by the governor.
Temperature checks of visitors were conducted at the single entrance allowed. Many of the seats at 75 gambling tables and 2,500 slots machines were removed to promote social distancing.
Poker games have not resumed because they are games where participants must handle playing cards.
“These significant drags on our business will likely continue for the foreseeable future,” Penn National reported.
Eric Schippers, Penn National’s public affairs manager, did not respond to a request for comment and information.
In normal times, Hollywood Casino in Charles Town draws about 2.5 million visitors annually to its slots, table games, sports betting, racetrack and entertainment events, according to the company’s website.
The entertainment venue is a premier tourist draw and a major source of direct and indirect jobs in Jefferson County.
Before the coronavirus shutdowns, Jefferson County’s six local governments had projected to collect about $4.5 million in total gambling tax revenues from the casino venue this 2021 fiscal year ending June 30.