Being a casino is no fun during a pandemic.
Casinos aren’t just a place to play slot machines — they’re also often hotels, restaurants, bars and concert venues. Due to COVID-19, all those aspects of the business were forced to close temporarily. That means thousands of jobs and a whole lot of money lost.
That said, as we’ve seen time and again, there is always a silver lining. We asked a couple of local casinos how they’ve reacted to the pandemic, how they’re supporting the community and how they’re preparing for this to all be over. Here’s what they had to say.
JIM WISE | FireKeepers Casino Hotel, Vice President of Marketing & Sports/Online Gaming
ON A LARGE SCALE, HOW HAS THIS PANDEMIC IMPACTED THE CASINO?
FireKeepers Casino Hotel has been closed since mid-March. This impacts our 1,800 team members and our goal of economic assistance for members of the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi. Secondly, construction of our second hotel tower, a 200-room expansion, which also provides new restaurant and gaming options, has been temporarily suspended at the request of the governor. This impacts our contractors and subcontractors and the hundreds of men and women they represent.
ON THE FLIPSIDE OF THAT, WHAT ARE THE SILVER LININGS YOU’VE SEEN?
When FireKeepers operations shut down, our focus moved to the needs of the Battle Creek community, donating seven tons of produce to the Food Bank of South Michigan. The food bank leveraged this donation to assist hundreds of people in South Michigan! The Kendall Street Pantry, part of FireKeepers Fire Hub Restaurant, saw dramatic increases in local needs.
WHAT’S YOUR PLAN GOING FORWARD?
Continue to focus on the community. We have deep-cleaned the casino hotel to prepare it for the time when we can reopen. We stay in social media and email contact with our guests, keeping them up to date and maintaining communications.
DO YOU HAVE ANY SPECIFIC IDEAS FOR WHAT YOU’RE GOING TO DO WHEN THIS IS ALL OVER?
We have a plan for communications, promotions and a reopening. We greatly miss our team members and our huge family of guests and look forward to seeing them again. But we also have to determine new paradigms of social distancing and protection of everyone’s health.
ALEXIS BOLO | Gun Lake Casino, Community & Public Relations Coordinator
HOW HAS THIS ALL AFFECTED GUN LAKE CASINO?
The top priority for Gun Lake Casino remains the health and safety of our guests and team members. Gun Lake Casino temporarily closed our doors and ceased our operations in support of Gov. Whitmer’s directive to stay home and stay safe.
WHAT ARE YOU FEELING GOOD ABOUT?
All Gun Lake Casino team members received full benefits and compensation for a total of four weeks, and we donated excess food to local charities. Although we cannot wait to see our team members and provide our guests with the ultimate entertainment experience, their health and safety is at the core of every decision made. Our guests and team members have been supportive and appreciative of Gun Lake Casino’s leadership in the community.
HAVE YOU BEEN ABLE TO SUPPORT THE COMMUNITY IN ANY WAY?
In light of the coronavirus pandemic and Gun Lake Casino’s recent temporary closure, Gun Lake Casino donated almost 7 tons of fresh food to Degage Ministries, Hand2Hand, Feeding America West Michigan, and Exodus Place. All local nonprofits in West Michigan.
In addition to full compensation, team members are provided with health care benefits and access to the Gun Lake Tribal Health Center, located in the Gun Lake Tribe Government Campus across from Gun Lake Casino.
Gun Lake Casino has applied for unemployment benefits for all team members who have been placed on a temporary and short-term furlough. This benefit has been provided in hopes of reducing stress and to offer support while navigating the unemployment system during the pandemic.
Also, Gun Lake Casino is continuing to provide benefit coverage for all furloughed team members.
WHAT’S YOUR GAME PLAN AT THE MOMENT?
Gun Lake Casino will continue to monitor this situation closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Michigan Department for Health and Human Services. We look forward to reopening as soon as it is safe to do so.
IS THERE A PLAN FOR HOW YOU’RE GOING TO OPEN BACK UP OR ARE YOU JUST TAKING IT DAY BY DAY?
We have already reviewed all operations for opportunities to enhance the guest experience when we reopen. This includes plans to increase cleaning routines, more hand sanitization stations and other operational enhancements. We look forward to again providing the ultimate entertainment experience in West Michigan, as soon as it is safe to do so.
IS THERE ANYTHING YOU’D LIKE OUR READERS TO KNOW?
All updates regarding Gun Lake Casino’s schedule to reopen will be posted on the Gun Lake Casino website—gunlakecasino.com—and on social media accounts.