The country is experiencing a historically difficult economic period," said Jan Jones, senior vice president of communications and government relations for Harrah’s. "The gaming industry, as nearly all consumer business in the country, has been negatively impacted by the difficult circumstances of the economy."
The casino operator, which owns and operates Paris Las Vegas, Bally’s, Bill’s, Flamingo, Imperial Palace, Harrah’s, Caesars Palace and Rio locally, has already cut nearly 1,500 Las Vegas jobs this year, according to an article published last month by Reuters.
The decision comes as revenue and visitor volume to the Strip continue to drop. Gaming revenue on the Strip has declined 6.5 % year-over-year through July, according to the latest figures available from the Gaming Control Board. Visitation to the Strip fell 4.6 % in the same month.
"Business levels for the Las Vegas gaming market are down," Jones said. "These circumstances require us to carefully evaluate our business to insure that we are operating within current business volumes." Harrah’s is not alone in continuing to cut jobs and adjust employees’ hours as businesses across the valley continue to adjust to the economic downturn.
Bill Lerner, a Las Vegas-based gaming analyst for Deutsche Bank, said some properties have been closing off gaming table pits for extended hours, cutting restaurant hours and even closing rooms in hotel towers.
"All of those carry employment," Lerner said. "Over the last two to three weeks, the behavior of visitors to Las Vegas has changed noticeably. They’re spending very differently, and less, than they were prior to that. It’s 100 % related to the things people are watching on CNN and CNBC with the economy and the credit environment."
MGM Mirage, which owns 10 properties on the Strip, has cut nearly 1,500 jobs this year locally, according to the Reuters article. Gordon Absher, MGM Mirage’s vice president of public affairs, confirmed that number. He added, "We are continuing to deal the downturn in the economy just like every other city, market sector and household in America."
Company officials wouldn’t give exact staff counts. Station Casinos conducted another round of layoffs in early September, saying the number of employees who were affected represented "a very small percentage" of the workers at its 17 properties.
The locals gaming company has hired most of the staff for its new Aliante Station, which opens November 11, company spokeswoman Lori Nelson said Friday. However, some of the positions were offered to workers who were affected by the reductions last month. Newly laid-off workers will enter a job market that is already stressed.
Las Vegas’ unemployment rate hit 7.1 % in August, the highest rate since July 1993 when the rate was 7.2 %, according to the Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation.
Jobs in the hotel-casino industry fell by approximately 600 in August despite the 1,100 new jobs provided by the opening of the us$ 250 Eastside Cannery on August 28. Jacob Oberman, director of gaming research for CB Richard Ellis, said the housing market will need to rebound before consumer spending returns and the job cuts slow.
More employment help is coming. Wynn Resorts Ltd. is hiring 5,300 workers for Encore at Wynn Las Vegas, scheduled to open in December. Next year will see the opening of the us$ 1 billion M Resort, which will employ about 2,000. Nearly 6,000 workers will be needed for the us$ 2.9 billion Fontainebleau, and 12,000 will be hired for the us$ 9.2 billion CityCenter project, slated to start opening late next year.