Horse racing, gambling, and sports betting in Indiana took a jolt Wednesday when Harrah’s Hoosier Park Racing and Casino in Anderson announced the furloughs of nearly 1,000 workers due to the COVID-19 global pandemic and raised the possibility those furloughs could be permanent.
In a letter sent to the state’s Department of Workforce Development and Anderson Mayor Thomas J. Broderick Jr., Caesars’ Senior Vice President and General Manager Trent McIntosh stated that “due to the unforeseeable, unanticipated, and substantial reduction in business levels resulting from the public health emergency caused by COVID-19 … Harrah’s Hoosier Park Racing and Casino may remain closed for business for the foreseeable future.”
The state’s other major horse racing track, Indiana Grand Racing Casino in Shelbyville, furloughed 1,126 employees on April 1. McIntosh’s letter states Harrah’s furloughs began March 16, and the sudden nature of the global pandemic left it unable to provide the 60-day notice as required by the WARN Act. McIntosh expressed hope the furloughs for his 998 employees would be temporary, but “given the unknown certainty surrounding COVID-19, it is possible that the furloughs could become a permanent layoff.”
Hoosier Park had already lost 17 racing days as of April 30 and was scheduled to expand racing to five days per week starting Monday.
Statement from Anderson Mayor Thomas Broderick, Jr.
Hoosier State Bets received a statement from Anderson Mayor Thomas Broderick Jr. via email on the furloughs:
I spoke with the leadership of Caesars, El Dorado and Harrah’s Hoosier Park on Tuesday of this week. They expressed their full commitment to reopening the casino in Anderson as soon as they are allowed by the Governor and our local Board of Health, and that they will do so in a manner that includes safe social distancing. They also explained that they were continuing to support their employees with insurance coverage and they intended to recall all laid-off employees in the future. They also expressed their intent to following through with their plans for improvements and expansions of the premises.
It is my understanding that the filing of the WARN notice was done in order to comply with federal law and not as an indication of any thought to close the facility.
Both Hoosier Park (Caesars) and Eldorado Resorts re-emphasized their commitment to the City of Anderson and their plans to continue with sale of the property upon approval by the Indiana Gaming Commission and the Indiana Horse Racing Commission.
Caesars (Hoosier Park) continues to be a strong partner to our community. We look forward to their re-opening as soon as possible and we are confident they will comply with any requirements for social distancing and protections for workers and customers as specified by regulators and the State of Indiana. Upon finalization of the sale to Eldorado I have no doubt our positive partnership with the new owners will continue and that the property will continue to be a leading gaming venue in our state that will continue to be an exceptional place for employment and entertainment.
Both tracks consistent contributors to sports betting and casino gaming revenue
Both Hoosier Park and Indiana Grand have been solid contributors to Indiana’s gaming revenue, both in sports betting when launched last Labor Day weekend and expanded casino gaming which began in January. Hoosier Park had nearly $11.5 million in sports betting handle in the first two-plus months of 2020, according to the Indiana Gaming Commission, while generating $69,464 in tax revenue.
It also reported a drop of $22.2 million in casino games in that span while posting wins of more than $5.8 million and had generated just over $13 million in wagering taxes in the calendar year 2020.
Indiana Grand had posted a cumulative sports betting handle of $11.1 million in the first quarter of 2020 while generating $103,116 in tax receipts. Its casino drop in that span was $41.5 million with wins of $10.9 million while generating more than $17.3 million in wagering taxes.