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Tribal casino lays off almost 1,500 at 3 Michigan locations during virus crisis

James David Dickson
The Detroit News

A tribal casino system in Michigan has laid off almost 1,500 employees as it has closed for business during the coronavirus outbreak.

Four Winds Casinos has three gambling facilities in Michigan — in New Buffalo, Hartford and Dowagiac — and one in South Bend, Indiana. 

"There is no intention that positions will be terminated," wrote Frank Freedman, chief operating officer of Four Winds, in a letter to state officials warning of the layoffs, which affect 1,489 people.

Freedman's letter cites the coronavirus outbreak specifically.

"Due to the rapid onset of COVID-19, for the safety and well-being of the employees, the casino has suspended services and is not open to the public," Freedman wrote.

While the date of its reopening remains unknown, all laid-off employees will be called back when it does, the letter says. 

The 1,489 positions laid-off represents the largest WARN notice filed in Michigan this year, as the coronavirus and the state's attempts to contain it, which include a "stay-at-home" order has resulted in "non-essential" workplaces, particularly those where people congregate in large numbers, being closed for the time being.

Detroit's three casinos have been closed since March 16. As a whole, the three casinos were down almost 19% in revenue in the first quarter of 2020.

More:Detroit's three casinos, closed for COVID-19, report sharp revenue declines

For the first three full months of 2020, 50 WARN notices for 8,932 jobs were reported, according to the state. That compares to 27 notices for 6,914 jobs in 2019, and 9 notices for 1,226 jobs in 2018.

After Four Winds Casinos, YMCA of Metropolitan Detroit has filed the second-biggest WARN notice in Michigan, for 1,318 jobs.