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Hamburg casino proves to be a safe haven from the storm

Nine Hamburg Gaming employees have had plenty of time to bond since Monday, when the lake-effect storm blew in and left them stuck at work for four days.

The gaming facility at the Erie County Fairgrounds, operated by Delaware North, closes at 4 a.m., but by 1 a.m. Tuesday they called in plows to make sure the final two dozen patrons could make it out OK, said general manager Ellsworth Gaskill.

Soon after that, with the storm getting even worse, the eight or nine workers who live in the Southtowns escaped for their homes, leaving behind nine who couldn’t make it out to the northern suburbs in time.

A power surge also knocked out the heat for several hours on Wednesday. The employees work in security, surveillance, the money cage, food service and housekeeping.

Since Tuesday, the eight men and one woman have been sleeping on banquettes in the bar area, watching sports on a large-screen TV, borrowing fresh uniforms from the laundry, showering in the locker room and cooking meals.

“And getting to know each other better,” Gaskill said.

Gaskill lives a couple-hundred yards away and has regularly checked in on the snowed-in employees, bringing supplies of clean towels, soap, toothpaste and other toiletries.

The workers haven’t passed the time by playing any of the facility’s games – they’re not allowed to, Gaskill said – and they haven’t opened any bottles of beer or booze.

“They didn’t touch the bar – they didn’t ask,” Gaskill said. In fact, they broke up the monotony by performing some of their duties, and Delaware North plans to pay them for any time they work. They finally managed to leave Friday afternoon.

– Stephen T. Watson