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Gulf Coast Claims Facility and Casino Workers

by admin on October 28th, 2010

Here along the Mississippi Gulf Coast, we have 11 beautiful casinos along the beach. When the BP well blew on April 20th, we all assumed it was the end of tourism as we knew it. And it absolutely was the end of tourism as we knew it, but oddly it wasn’t the end of tourism. Things were very, very bad for awhile. Local fishermen and some tourist businesses were absolutely destroyed as the oil began to wash ashore. Some fishermen were lucky enough to get jobs working with BP and money started to flow through the economy again, but not as much and not through the same businesses as before. Some were lucky and many were not as the local economy switched gears. Probably a whole book could be writtten about how the tourist economy here was flipped on it’s ear in just a few months and many local businesses were made over or destroyed, but today I wanted to talk about the Casinos and more specifically the casino workers along the Mississippi Coast.
Casinos employ about ten thousand people here along the Gulf Coast, that’s a small number of those affected by the spill, but local papers here are running articles about casino workers claims being categorically denied by the Gulf Coast Claims Facility and nothing really shows more clearly the dichotomy of those helped and those hurt by the storm. I have worked in Gulf Coast Casinos off and on and since 1992. I know many, many, many of the workers who are affected or not affected as the case may be, by this spill. As the spill reached our beaches, tourism here did suffer, but hotel bookings did not. People who come to the Gulf Coast it turned out, primarily come to gamble. Yes, they book fishing charters, and spend time at restaurants over looking the beach, but if those things weren’t available, they still came. The fishing captain and the restaurant waiters suffered. But the casinos for the most part really did not. Only one of the six months since the spill had smaller gross revenue numbers then 2009. And that was July which really was more affected by the number of weekends falling this year versus last year. Gross casino revenue was up in the months following the spill, and while October numbers aren’t even close to being ready, I would guess that they will be substantially up due to a “Cruising the Coast” event that was definitely well attended. And some of that attendance has to be credited to the many tens of millions of dollars that BP has given to both state and local tourism boards to promote events like “cruising”. That money combined with the tens of millions BP was paying out to individuals and companies enrolled in their vessels of opportunity program mean that cash was still flowing through local communities, but not through to the same businesses and individuals as it had during a normal tourist season.
This can be seen in the sales tax revenue for the local counties over the past six months. So the Casinos were still making money, and to my knowledge not one of the casinos has filed a claim for loss of revenue with BP. But even within the casinos, money did flow differently. Rooms that were filled with BP claims reps and vessel of opportunity personnel meant that occupancy could be up, but fine dining could be down. Or perhaps the golf course was down dramatically, but the bars were doing great. To say that the casinos did not suffer a loss would not be the same thing as saying employees in certain departments didn’t suffer loss. Just as there were winners and losers in the outside economy, there were winners and losers inside the casinos as well.
The local papers stated that only three casino employee claims out of many hundreds filed has been paid. That strikes me as absurd. I realize that without paying attention to the details of the claims, it might seem that if casinos made more money then casino employees across the board must have made more money, but it wasn’t that simple. Any claim should stand on whether lost wages can be proved, and can be tied directly to the spill. I know that many people in certain departments can meet that barrier of proof. Mr. Feinberg has stated that all claims will be reviewed independently on a case by case basis. And with the difficulties that he has ran into in the past, I tend to believe him. I mean the fiercest army of claims litigators the world has ever seen stands waiting, sharpening their blades for the slightest misstep. The Gulf Coast claims facility has never been the last recourse for those with legitimate claims. I know many restaurant owners who used local attorneys to simply help with their BP claims, not even file a claim in court, and who were very happy to have someone else deal with the paperwork and process. So there are certainly other avenues if you have the proof to show a loss of income. That being said I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that much of the confusion and slow down with casino employee claims came from employees themselves. I’m aware of many table games dealers, working part time, who filed claims in the tens of thousands of dollars. Throughout the casino I work at I have heard over and over claims numbers which border on the fraudulent. If I’m working for Mr. Feinberg and I begin to see claims numbers like these, without any supporting documentation, then perhaps I would want to take a closer look at claims from casino workers as well.. It’s really simple. If you have a legitimate claim that you can document, then don’t ever stop pursuing your case, but if your filing fraudulent claims that are holding up legitimate claims, then shame on you. Well, more than shame, because I suspect that many of those claims will result in criminal charges which will give an entire industry a black eye. And that’s how this whole story works out, a lot of people always end up suffering for the greed of a very few.

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  1. Kristine Hannan permalink

    Well ARE you working for Mr. Feinberg? And when, might I ask, is he planning on evaluating our claims on a “case by case” basis? So far we HAVE been categorically denied. If there are any casino workers being compensated, they should be put front and center on the GCCF’s website under “statistics”. This would do A LOT to quiet the rumors that no casino workers are being paid.

  2. Daniel Brautman permalink

    I enjoyed your article very much, and there are many truths here. The fact of the matter is many people in the hospitality industry cannot prove a loss, because they claim their tips on what is called Tip Compliance. However the casino dealers are taxed on 100% of the tips they make.

    I have been a front runner on helping dealers file claims, and it has been easy since they can prove all of their income. I have proved out of the 80 plus dealers that their income was up for the first 10 (bi-weekly) paychecks of the year when compared from 2009 to 2010. After the spill in the gulf, the income was way down when compared to the previous year.

    When it is so black and white that this tragic accident adversely affected the casino dealers, and yet all of the claims are still denied, and phone calls are not returned. How can this process pay claims outside of the casino business, but in the hospitality industry to people that cannot prove loss and yet deny the ones that can prove a loss goes against any comprehendible reasoning.

    Do not get me wrong, I think all front line employees in the hospitality should be paid something, even if those losses cannot be proved, because all have lost income. BP claim process took into account bringing back the economy in the affected regions. With our dramatic decrease in income, our family has had to cut back in going to the movies, having hamburgers instead of steak, or budgeting for a smaller Christmas.

    I do not believe in handouts, just do what is right. Denying legitimate claims just because we work in a casino instead of outside the casino, but still in the hospitality business is completely wrong. Mr. Feinberg should do what he says, look at the individual claims. This is a promise that has not been kept.

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