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Layoffs hit Harrah’s

Sara, a fictitious name until agreement on her severance package has been reached this week, spent last weekend realizing she’d have a lot more time to ride her mountain bike.

One of 61 workers laid off from Harrah’s Lake Tahoe Thursday due to a slow summer, the South Shore woman said she’d roll with the punches.

“I’m not angry with the company,” she said, adding she understands last week’s cost-cutting measure.



“It’s slower now than it was in the winter,” said the VIP coordinator, one of three job duties she juggled at the Stateline casino considered non-essential by upper management.

Although her parents were visiting from out of town, Sara received a call from her boss Wednesday night to come in on her day off. Expecting the worst, she quickly lined up another job at a local bar to tide her over this summer.



The major shocker still stings though because she liked her job and received several kudos from management and the casino guests.

After talking to her boss, she walked out Thursday morning with the consolation she must have done a good job.

“I got hugs from guests who told me what a good job I did,” she said.

She’ll miss the guests and her co-workers the most, as she switches to part-time work and volunteering.

“I’m going to enjoy my summer,” she said.

Sara is not alone, joining Harrah’s 46 other full-timers and 14 part-time or on-call workers who have been laid off.

The 61 employees represent 3 percent of the South Shore casino’s workforce – 2,100 staffers.

The announcement of the layoffs came the same day as its regulatory approvals in Las Vegas regarding the proposed acquisition of longtime competitor Harveys Casino Resorts for $675 million in cash and liabilities.

The sale is expected to close Tuesday and more layoffs are anticipated once the company has fully assessed the merger impact.

Last week’s layoffs and the nearing Harveys’ merger have nothing to do with each other, spokesman John Packer said. Instead, a poor showing this third quarter prompted the casino to tighten its belt.

This summer pales by comparison to this same period last year. This is a time when Harrah’s expects to earn 40 percent of its business for the year.

Like the already-reported lower second quarter earnings which were down 3.5 percent, estimated revenues thus far have fallen dramatically.

“This third quarter is shaping up to be not as good. We haven’t seen a dip like this since 1995,” Packer said.

Final results will be released in a little less than three months.

Packer again pointed to a sluggish economy – particularly in California – and high energy costs as some of the reasons for the seemingly poor performance.

“It’s not any one thing,” he said.

Those who received the pink slips are offered severance packages and professional career-placement consulting by an outside firm.

There’s always the possibility economic trends could turn around too, Packer noted, in which case, the casino may call some workers back.

If this indeed happens within the year, these staffers would keep their tenure.

He reminded the community the layoffs don’t reflect the corporation’s pull-back in its commitment to South Lake Tahoe and redevelopment plans.

“Harrah’s clearly believes in this market. We’re encouraged by Marriott’s stepping up the way they have,” he said of the hotel manager’s major construction taking place under the nearby Heavenly Gondola.

Marriott International bought the development rights a few months ago to build a hotel-condominium project for Heavenly’s parent American Skiing Company, as well as a time-share hotel.


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