Nearly 200 workers were laid off from Resorts World Casino New York City after the facility’s Aqueduct Buffet restaurant shut down this past weekend.
“We have made the difficult decision to close the Aqueduct Buffet, which never caught on with our customers and has consistently lost money,” said casino President Ed Farrell in a statement. “We sincerely regret the impact this closure has on the buffet’s employees and are working closely with the Hotel Trades Council to ease this transition.”
Multiple sources put the number of laid-off workers at 175, though the casino did not say how many exactly were let go. That number would be about 10 percent of its workforce. All the workers were those who worked in the buffet.
One laid-off worker, who did not wish to be identified, blasted the casino and said she did not believe the buffet was not profitable.
“There was no way they weren’t making money,” she said. “They were definitely making money.”
The employee noted that the buffet prices rose after the casino was forced by an arbitrator to give its workers a pay raise in October. Resorts World did not fight the ruling. When it closed, the buffet’s prices were as high as $38 a person including taxes and gratuity.
Nevertheless, the employee, who had worked as a server at the buffet since its grand opening, said the buffet was often crowded, including on New Year’s Eve when there was a line to get in and workers said they were willing to make compromises to help save money.
“We were willing to take included gratuity off the bills to bring down the prices,” she said. “We were willing to compromise. We had customers who used to come just to see us. It’s very sad and very frustrating.”
State Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach) said he was incredibly unhappy to hear about the buffet’s closure and had spoken to Farrell about the situation.
“I can’t accept this decision by Resorts World when we see it as a job creator,” Addabbo said. “What made me more accepting of Resorts World and their plans is they weren’t offering us just slots. They were offering us an experience. You don’t have to go to Resorts World to just gamble.”
He suggested that the casino could have averted the layoffs by reducing the hours the buffet was open or reverting back to the lower prices.
“I’m guessing it was somewhat more profitable at $20 a plate than $40 a plate,” Addabbo said. “I understand the overhead may have increased because of [the pay raise], but then you do things differently.”
The terminated employees were being given between one and five weeks severance pay and four months family healthcare, which sources say is more than required under their contracts as part of the Hotel Trades Council union that represents them. They will also be provided with job training and job placement services, according to Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder (D-Rockaway Park), who called the layoffs “upsetting.”
“We want to make sure the people who lost their jobs are not left behind,” he said, noting that the casino still employs more than 1,500 people, a much higher number than originally planned when Genting, the parent company of Resorts World, won the bid to open the facility n 2010.
John Turchiano, a spokesman for the Hotel Trades Council, said union representatives were to meet with casino management Wednesday to discuss ways to help the laid-off workers. He added that the union is typically able to find other employment opportunities for workers in this situation.
“This obviously isn’t the first food vendor to close because it wasn’t making money,” Turchiano said. “We certainly have enough hotels under contracts where there will hopefully be job openings available.”
The Aqueduct Buffet opened with the casino in October 2011, but casino officials say it had never been a profitable enterprise, though the casino has garnered nearly $1 billion in revenue since it opened. It was located on the casino’s main floor — the Times Square Casino floor — and overlooked the racetrack.
The casino has a number of other food options including a food court that features eateries like Popeye’s and Starbucks, a take-out venue and two sit-down restaurants: Genting Palace, which serves Chinese cuisine, and RW Prime, a steakhouse. Snacks can also be ordered at the casino’s main bar, Bar360.
The casino said it did not have any immediate plans on what they will do with the buffet location, but Addabbo said he wanted to make sure it remained for food service and not for more slot machines.