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Las Vegas Strip resorts announce hundreds of layoffs

LAS VEGAS (AP) – Major Las Vegas Strip hotel-casino operators announced the layoffs of hundreds of employees Wednesday.

Park Place Entertainment, MGM Mirage and Mandalay Resort Group have laid off employees at each of the companies’ hotel-casinos while the industry waits for visitors to return after last week’s terrorist attacks on the East Coast, casino executives said.

Harrah’s Entertainment Inc., the state’s second largest employer, and the privately held Venetian hotel-casino said layoffs were not anticipated.



Debbie Munch, spokeswoman for Park Place, said several hundred workers have been laid off at both Bally’s and Paris Las Vegas, which together employ 7,000. The company also is reducing its work force throughout the country through attrition, voluntary time off or reduced work weeks, Munch said.

”I can’t provide specific numbers because it’s going to be a moving target over the next few days (based on hotel occupancy numbers),” she said.




Further layoffs cannot be ruled out, she said.

Park Place, the world’s largest gambling company and Nevada’s largest employer, employs 18,000 people in Las Vegas.

At MGM Mirage, the Strip’s largest hotel-casino operator, hundreds of workers have lost their jobs and that number could continue to rise, company spokesman Alan Feldman said.

”We have no choice but to implement temporary staff reductions,” he said, adding that work weeks for remaining employees will be cut, too.

”It is quite clear to us that business isn’t going to rebound in the next several days,” Feldman said. ”But we’re putting in place a recall plan. It’s our firm belief this will be short-lived.”

Mandalay Resort began laying off people Tuesday, said John Marz, Mandalay’s vice president of marketing.

The layoffs will continue ”until we have the business here to support increased staff,” Marz said.

Mandalay’s properties, like MGM Mirage and Park Place, began asking employees to voluntarily reduce hours and take days off after occupancy rates fell last weekend to about 50 percent in the wake of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and the subsequent disruption of the nation’s airline industry.

At the financially struggling Aladdin hotel-casino, about 500 workers at all levels were laid off Wednesday, company spokesman Lynn Holt said.

While many resort operators are comparing the current 33 percent slump in hotel occupancy levels to the slowdown the Strip experienced during the Persian Gulf War, industry experts said the hotels did not furlough workers in droves then.

”There was a (15 percent) slowdown in visitor volume during the Persian Gulf, but employment remained steady,” said Keith Schwer, director of UNLV’s Center for Business and Economic Research. ”This is really a much more severe impact throughout the economy. This means other secondary business will be affected.”

If laid-off hotel-casino employees are not brought back to work quickly, ”for every job we lose in gaming, we’re going to lose one additional job,” Schwer said. ”The numbers we’re talking about could add up very quickly.”

The layoffs come on the heels of the loss nationally of thousands of airline jobs, including those at Las Vegas-based National Airlines.

Layoffs are not unusual along the Strip during slow periods like the holiday season, said D. Taylor, staff director of the Culinary Union.

”The question is the extent and the length,” Taylor said. ”I don’t think they (the casinos) know themselves yet. We’ll have a better read on it in a few weeks.”

Meanwhile, MGM Mirage is working with the IRS to reduce an automatic tip reduction from tip earner’s paychecks during the slowdown, said Betty Wilson, vice president of taxes for the casino giant.

”All these tip rates were determined when Las Vegas was up and running full steam,” Wilson said. ”Since the attacks, the number of visitors and (hotel) occupancy are way down. We needed to make an immediate adjustment to the tip rates so individuals aren’t paying taxes on money they aren’t receiving.”

The IRS confirmed it has been working with the gambling industry on the issue.

”We are reacting to the economic downturn in Nevada and we are working with the industry to make temporary adjustments to the tip rates,” said Joe Page, IRS spokesman in Denver.


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