ST. MARY PARISH, La. (KLFY)- Casinos across Louisiana are laying off hundreds of their employees after being forced to closed because of COVID-19.

Cypress Bayou Casino and Hotel in St. Mary Parish is one of those. They laid off 229 employees in early July.

“It’s absolutely heartbreaking. A lot of those team members are very loyal and dedicated, and we know that,” the casino’s director of public relations and advertising Richard Picard said. “But we really needed to save to ensure that this business can move forward.”

He says the layoffs were necessary to keep the business running after coronavirus forced them to shut their doors for two months.

“Unfortunately those decisions did have to be made to stabilize the business to ensure the survivability of the company for the few other hundred employees that are employed here,” Picard said. “We needed to ensure that the few hundred other employees, 350, somewhere around that number, still had a place to call home and work.”

Picard says most of the employees laid off were in the food and beverage operations, many of which are closed right now because of limited capacity inside the casino.

Another reason for so many layoffs is that the casino isn’t operating 24 hours, 7 days a week anymore.

“We are open from 10 a.m. to 2 a.m., which leaves almost a whole shift that was eliminated because there was no other places to place those team members,” Picard told News 10.

There’s no doubt casinos will be operating a bit differently now, with every other slot machine turned off and thermal camera temperature checks at every entrance, but Cypress Bayou says the future is not looking dim for casinos in Louisiana.

“Guest visitation has been increasing week over week, so there are some very positive signs. It looks a lot better than we originally anticipated,” Picard said.