Unionized workers at Horseshoe Casino Baltimore are seeking salaries equal to what others in the hospitality and gaming industry in Baltimore and beyond are paid. About 20 workers and union representatives rallied Feb. 1 to demand higher pay, better working situations and to voice their displeasure with the casino.
The workers say their salaries are less than industry standards, and they do not get extra pay for working on holidays. Caesars Entertainment, which owns Horseshoe, did not respond to requests for comment.
Casino revenue has risen since COVID-19 shutdowns
There are currently six casinos in Maryland. Horseshoe Casino is located in downtown Baltimore near Camden Yards and M&T Bank Stadium, respective homes of the MLB’s Baltimore Orioles and the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens. The casino opened in 2014 and boasts the second-largest gaming floor in Maryland.
The demonstrating workers point to rising casino revenue since the COVID-19 pandemic as further substantiation for their claims. According to the union representing the workers, Horseshoe revenue dropped to $145.3 million in 2020. In 2021, however, gaming revenue rose to $209.4 million, increasing to $209.9 million in 2022.
This increase was due in part to the addition of a retail Caesars Sportsbook location inside the casino.
Last quarter, Caesars generated more than $1.5 billion from its casinos outside of Las Vegas, hailing it as the best second quarter in company history.
Nevertheless, workers say that bargaining with Caesars has hit an impasse after their contract expired in October.
Employees say wages haven’t gone up since October 2021
Tiego Murray, 33, a bar porter at the Horseshoe Casino restaurant Brew Brothers, said pay should increase at the same rate as inflation, at the very least.
“Everyone is struggling to get by, with inflation through the roof. If inflation can be adjusted, then so can our pay . . . Everything has been difficult, just keeping up with rent and bills going up.”
Currently, the lowest wages non-tipped workers at Horseshoe make are $14.67 an hour. Union workers have not received a raise since October 2021. They also point out that they do not receive extra compensation when working on holidays. A union representative told The Baltimore Sun that Caesars recently signed a four-year contract with Atlantic City workers. It included holiday pay as well as raises up to $18 to $22 an hour.
David Carleton, a 52-year-old bartender at Brew Brothers, said that discussions with Caesars have been unproductive.
“… There is a lot of disrespect towards the city and its residents in the way they have approached bargaining.”
He said Caesars’ proposal is to increase pay for tipped workers by 25 cents an hour each year over the next four years and 40 cents an hour for workers who do not receive tips.
Carleton said the raises being offered “are just not substantial at all.”
“They are only giving us spare change for three out of the four years that we are bargaining for right now. . . Pay just needs to keep up.”
Workers contend casino is understaffed
To make matters worse, the workers say the casino is severely understaffed across all departments. They must pick up the slack of their non-existent co-workers, Andrea Williams, a cook at the casino, told The Sun.
“In every department, we are struggling to do the work of three or four people.”
The hospitality industry is one of the largest employers in Baltimore. That is why it is “really important to revitalizing the city in terms of jobs that people can have to support their families,” said Tracy Lingo of Unite Here Local 7, one of the unions in a coalition representing 600 casino dealers, cocktail servers, cooks, bartenders, cleaning staff and other workers. She confirmed the pay gap, explaining:
“Here, workers are really far behind our other union hotels in the city. We are trying to even that wage up and move forward in future years.”