Daily Labor Report®

Colorado Helps Furloughed Casino Workers Roll Joints, Not Dice

April 8, 2020, 7:48 PM

Casino workers in Colorado who were furloughed after a state coronavirus-response order shuttered the industry now have an easier path to landing jobs at cannabis companies that were deemed “essential” businesses.

Individuals who hold a valid Colorado gaming license can temporarily apply for work at a cannabis business without having to provide additional credentials, according to an emergency rule the Colorado Department of Revenue’s Marijuana Enforcement Division adopted last month to support the state’s decision to allow marijuana companies to continue operating during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D) issued a coronavirus shutdown order on March 17 that closed more than 30 casinos in Black Hawk, Central City, and Cripple Creek, the three towns where gambling is legal in the state, spurring a wave of furloughs in the industry.

The emergency rule is the latest example of state-level officials across the country seeking creative ways to respond to the surging number of workers filing for unemployment assistance after being furloughed or laid off due to the public health crisis.

Regulatory similarities between the two sectors made the rule change easier to implement, said Shannon Gray, a spokeswoman for the Marijuana Enforcement Division. Casino workers in Colorado undergo background checks that are similar to those required to obtain occupational licenses in the marijuana sector, and both the state Gaming Division and the Marijuana Enforcement Division fall under the same group within the Department of Revenue.

Notice Required

Colorado was the first state in the country to permit state-licensed sale of marijuana for recreational uses in addition to medicinal applications, though cannabis remains a Class 1 drug under the federal Controlled Substances Act.

Licensed gaming employees and their prospective cannabis employer must notify the Marijuana Enforcement Division if they plan to take advantage of the emergency rule, Gray said. The rule will be in place for 120 days from its effective date of April 1, or whenever the statewide stay-at-home order is rescinded.

The shutdown order applies to about 35 casinos that together employed about 8,956 workers as of July 2018, said Suzi Karrer, a spokeswoman in the Department of Revenue’s Enforcement Division. The rule doesn’t apply to two casinos in the state run by American Indian tribes.

It wasn’t immediately known how many casino workers have been furloughed or laid off, or how many could apply for cannabis industry jobs pursuant to the emergency rule, Karrer said Tuesday. The Colorado Gaming Association, an industry trade group, didn’t return a request for comment.

Marijuana sales in Colorado hit a record of $1.75 billion in 2019, according to the Department of Revenue. The state had issued 40,267 employee licenses as of April 1. Gaming revenues in fiscal year 2018 were $126.2 million, according to the state.

Licenses for those working in the gaming industry cover two classes: key employees who have responsibility for management or policy decisions, and support employees, such as dealers, cashiers, and others. License costs for new employees range from $115 to $275.

To contact the reporter on this story: Tripp Baltz in Denver at abaltz@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: John Lauinger at jlauinger@bloomberglaw.com; Martha Mueller Neff at mmuellerneff@bloomberglaw.com

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