Rampant inflation and record gasoline prices have hit casino employees like the rest of the population, and one Pennsylvania operator says it is taking special steps to try to ease that toll on them.
Wind Creek Bethlehem announced Tuesday it will be providing a one-time cash stipend to all employees, in addition to increasing availability of flexible work schedules so staff members have the option to drive to work fewer days.
Wind Creek Hospitality, which operates the casino and other gaming properties of Alabama’s Poarch Band of Creek Indians, did not disclose the amount of the special stipends. It said employees would receive more details directly later this month.
Inflation has driven up typical household costs at a greater rate than any time in Wind Creek Bethlehem’s existence, and Catherine Timmons, executive vice president of human resources for Wind Creek Hospitality, said in a press release, “These added and unexpected costs are creating a great burden on our employees, and we want to take steps within our power to relieve some of the burden where we can.”
A spokeswoman for the gaming/hotel/shopping venue in Bethlehem, one of the state’s largest casino properties, said it has 1,498 employees out of a total Wind Creek workforce of 5,434 internationally.
Shift change can save on gas, child care
Unprecedented challenges in retaining as well as hiring employees have faced Pennsylvania’s casinos since their return from COVID-related shutdowns. They have tried various steps to address shortages, including raising minimum hourly pay to $15 in some cases.
Wind Creek believes it can help workers by broadening options for work schedules instead of relying solely on traditional five-day-a-week, eight-hour shifts. Some positions will now be available for four 10-hour shifts or three 12-hour shifts in a week.
“If we can create schedules where employees only have to commute three to four days each week instead of the traditional five days, it amounts to a 20 percent or even 40 percent reduction in fuel costs and potential child care costs,” said Jay Dorris, president and CEO of Wind Creek Hospitality. “Those are important dollars for the families of our team.”
The flexible shifts are not open to every assignment of every team member, but the company vowed it will make them available to the maximum extent, with multiple benefits hopefully resulting.
“Providing our guests an escape from their daily world is at our core,” Dorris said. “Building and unifying a team of employees who believe their employer is making life better for them ensures those team members see to it that our guests get that escape they need.”
Stephanie Bryan, chairwoman of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, based in Atmore, Alabama, added, “Every member of our tribal council believes very strongly that they need to support our team at this time.”