(CHICAGO) – On Thursday, November 15, recently laid-off casino workers from the Majestic Star Casino in Gary will call on the Indiana Gaming Commission to stop out-of-town billionaire investment firms from taking over casinos and stripping out Indiana jobs.
Wayzata Investment Partners, a Minnesota-based investment firm with around $7.5 billion in assets, took control of the Majestic Star Casino in November 2011. Wayzata executives, at the time, refused to disclose their plans for the casino.
The Majestic Star laid-off 80 employees without advance notice to workers earlier this month. Laid-off employees worked in departments throughout the casino, and some had worked at Majestic Star for as long as sixteen years.
“These out-of-state owners who control billions are coming to Indiana and taking away our jobs,” Alisha Coleman, a laid-off Majestic Star worker, told the Post-Tribune last week.
Casinos like the Majestic Star were approved by political leaders based on the promise that they would bring stable jobs to hard-hit areas like Northwest Indiana. The layoffs, just before the holidays, come at a particularly difficult time for casino workers and their families.
While the casino told employees the layoffs were meant to improve efficiencies due to a change in guest volumes, admissions at Majestic Star over the past 12 months are actually up slightly from the year before. Additionally, the Majestic Star Casino took in more than $200 million in gross receipts over the past year, making it the seventh highest grossing casino in Indiana.
Indiana is not the only state where Wayzata Investment Partners is cutting jobs – in early October, the firm laid-off 84 employees at their Fitzgerald’s Casino in Tunica, MS.
Collective bargaining agreements covering around 1,000 Northwest Indiana casino workers expired on October 31, 2012, around the time the firings began.
The Indiana Public Retirement System (PRS), the pension plan for Indiana public employees and teachers, is a partner in the Wayzata Investment Partners fund that owns the Majestic Star Casino.
UNITE HERE Local 1 represents approximately 15,000 hospitality workers and casino workers in the Chicago area and Northwest Indiana.