Following outcry, Twin River extends health insurance for dealers

Blackstone Valley

LINCOLN, R.I. (WPRI) — Following outcry from employees who were set to lose their health insurance in the midst of a global pandemic, Twin River and the table game dealers’ union have agreed to extend coverage through the end of June.

Roughly 200 employees were set to lose their health benefits as of Feb. 1, after pandemic-related closures of Twin River’s two casinos forced employees to work fewer hours and become ineligible.

On Monday, the owners of Twin River Casino Hotel and the Laborers Local Union 711 announced they would jointly fund healthcare insurance for previously eligible casino table game dealers until June 30.

“Having our hard working members without health insurance, through no fault of their own, was of great concern to us, made even more serious by the simple fact that we are in the midst of a global economic and health crisis,” Michael Sabitoni, business manager for the union, said in a statement.  “We could not in good conscience allow our members to lose their health insurance at this time and are extremely grateful that Twin River management also recognized the gravity of the situation.”

But some workers that 12 News spoke with said it’s too late, and many employees already moved onto their spouses’ plans or found new coverage through the state’s health insurance exchange.

“The company and union had months to figure things out,” Jennifer Ruotolo, a table game dealer, told 12 News. “They gambled with our health.”

She said they planned to hold a protest on Monday, but postponed due to the inclement weather.

“If it was not for us going to the media, starting a rally, ordering signs, and organizing a protest, none of this would have happened,” argued fellow dealer, Jay Goodwin.

Others dealers like Louis Pear, expressed relief.

“I am appreciative of Craig Sculos and Twin River casino for listening to our pleas and deciding to invest in its extremely hardworking employees,” Pear wrote in a message to 12 News. “It was great to see our work family band together for a common cause that would have negatively affected hundreds of dealers.”

Twin River said its slot machines returned to 24-hour operation over the weekend and that 24-hour table gaming will return as of Thursday.

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