Billionaire businessman Tilman Fertitta has furloughed around 40,000 workers at his chains of casinos and restaurants in the wake of widespread temporary closures of non-essential businesses across the US in response to the global Covid-19 crisis.
Mr. Fertitta’s business assets include the Golden Nugget chain of casinos and hundreds of dining outlets operating under the Landry’s Inc. umbrella. The businessman said that he had to temporarily lay off staff to reduce the financial impact of government-invoked measures aiming to arrest the spread of the dangerous coronavirus.
The Texas-born billionaire has also called on authorities to allow dining and hospitality facilities to reopen at limited capacity in several weeks from now to avoid what could be one of the worst economic disasters in US history.
In a recent interview with Bloomberg, Mr. Fertitta said that while he supports the nationwide shutdown of businesses in the face of the Covid-19 outbreak, he thinks that “in a few weeks people will need to be around people” and that “otherwise we are going to go into an economic crisis that is going to take us years to dig ourselves out of.”
According to the billionaire businessman, who aside from his gaming and hospitality empire also owns NBA franchise Houston Rockets, casinos and restaurants could be allowed to operate at 30%-40% capacity to mitigate the economic impact of the current restrictions and to make sure that companies remain in business.
70% of Staff Temporarily Laid Off
Mr. Fertitta told Bloomberg that they had to place 70% of their staff on furlough as a result from the closure of most of the businesses owned by him.
The businessman is not the only casino owner to have furloughed employees in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Las Vegas casino giant MGM Resorts International laid off a number of employees following the closure of all of its US properties.
And as reported by Casino News Daily, the owners of Connecticut’s two casinos have placed their employees on furlough for the duration of the closure period.
Of the financial state of his businesses, Mr. Fertitta told Bloomberg said that he is confident these have access to enough cash to survive the current situation. Yet, the businessman said that he has been in talks with banks about potentially raising about $200 million in additional liquidity “as a little bit of insurance.”
Mr. Fertitta also noted that he is considering buying back Golden Nugget’s debt when things begin to turn back to normal and that he sees the move as great opportunity.
At present, the businessman’s Golden Nugget casinos in Las Vegas, Atlantic City, Lake Charles (Louisiana), and Biloxi (Mississippi) are temporarily shut down as are most of his restaurants. Those of his dining outlets that remain operational offer take-out and bring about 4%-5% of what they do when it is business as usual.
Mr. Fertitta noted that his gaming and hospitality businesses are burning through millions of dollars every day and that they are doing “basically no business.” The billionaire businessman noted that he wants to hire every furloughed employee back but “we have to survive or there is no company.”