A week after opening a $17 million hotel, Running Aces Casino and Racetrack has announced that it is laying off nearly all employees due to the coronavirus outbreak.

In an e-mail sent to Running Aces employees Wednesday evening, human resources manager Rebekah Schonhardt said the business was forced to make the decision because of the pandemic.

"We wish you and your families the very best in this trying time," she wrote. "It is our hope that the crisis passes quickly and Running Aces can reopen soon to serve our customers and guests."

Aaron Bedessem, Running Aces marketing director, said he hopes the layoff period is more like a furlough. "We hope to bring back as many employees as possible," he said. A few employees are still working to handle day-to-day responsibilities.

Prior to the hotel expansion there were 550 employees at Running Aces, according to data provided by Anoka County. Running Aces is the largest taxpayer in the city of Columbus, county communications director Erik Thorson told the Star Tribune.

Officials with Running Aces said Monday they were suspending casino and simulcast operations following pressure from employees and the Minnesota Racing Commission, which had pushed for the operation to close then.

Employees were terminated immediately, part of a "companywide reduction that will affect almost all Running Aces employees," the message from Schonhardt said. She added that the termination would allow employees to apply for unemployment insurance.

Kim Hyatt • 612-673-4751