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Park Place Entertainment Corp. has begun laying off employees at two of its Las Vegas hotel-casinos, as the Strip’s casino industry waits for a return to normalcy after last week’s terrorist attacks on the East Coast.


Debbie Munch, spokeswoman for Park Place, said this morning that “several hundred” employees have been laid off at Bally’s and Paris Las Vegas. The company has also been working to reduce its workforce both in Las Vegas and elsewhere in the country through attrition, voluntary time off or reduced work weeks. Park Place employs 18,000 people in Las Vegas.


“It’s not clear at this time if we’ll be able to call back some of the people who have been laid off, and we can’t speculate about the number of layoffs that may be necessary in the future at the Las Vegas properties that have been most seriously affected,” Munch said. Further layoffs cannot be ruled out, she said.


Park Place is the second big Las Vegas operator to announce layoffs following last week’s attacks, and the subsequent disruption of the nation’s airline industry. Mandalay Resort Group said Monday it had begun laying off employees, but did not specify how many.


Jim Murren, president and chief financial officer of MGM MIRAGE, said Tuesday it is “extremely premature” to discuss whether layoffs are planned at MGM MIRAGE properties.


“We are a very large employer, the largest in the state of Nevada,” Murren said. “We make every decision carefully. Those (layoffs) are the decisions we take the most time on. We’ll know a thousand percent more 30 days from now.”


Harrah’s Entertainment Inc. also said layoffs are not anticipated at the moment, as hotel room bookings are holding steady later this month and into October at the Rio and Harrah’s Las Vegas.


“From (late) September through October, we don’t have any cancellations,” Harrah’s Entertainment Inc. spokeswoman Jan Jones said on Tuesday’s “Face to Face with Jon Ralston,” a talk show aired on Las Vegas ONE, Cox cable channels 1 and 39. “We’re holding even. We don’t anticipate any layoffs if (these trends hold),” Jones said. “But we will keep an open mind on this (potential layoffs).”


Layoffs are not unusual along the Strip, said D. Taylor, staff director of the Culinary Union. For example, casinos often lay off workers temporarily when business slows down during the holiday season, Taylor said.


“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. If conventions start cancelling, that’s a serious concern.”


There has been talk companies would seek concessions from the Culinary Union regarding layoff practices, such as reducing the hours worked by full-time employees. Munch said this morning that Park Place has requested “the cooperation our local unions to assist with flexibility.”


But Taylor said Tuesday he couldn’t say whether the Culinary would cooperate with such requests, as no company had asked.


If they are requested, “we’d go back to our members and consider it,” Taylor said. “I’d be willing to listen, but I can’t respond unless I’ve heard something.”


Occupancy rates in Las Vegas hovered around 50 percent last weekend, and room rates remain abnormally low. In a survey conducted Tuesday, Las Vegas Investment Advisors found that 10 Strip hotels were quoting an average rate of $132 for this weekend, and $162 for the weekend following that. This weekend’s rate quote was down 52 percent from the rates first quoted three weeks ago, while the Sept. 29 rate was down 37 percent.


There have been fears that will continue as airlines drastically cut flights.


“There has been a material blow dealt to southern Nevada’s ability to supply visitors to its destination resort industry,” Ehlers said.


Those fears have driven investors to sell off casino stocks — through Wednesday morning trading, MGM MIRAGE lost 30 percent of its market value, Park Place was off 25 percent, and Harrah’s fell 20 percent. MGM MIRAGE took advantage of this drop by repurchasing some of its shares in recent days, though Murren refused to say how many shares were purchased. MGM MIRAGE is authorized to buy back as many as 10 million shares of its own stock.


Selling activity was continuing for a third straight day this morning. Worst hit was Park Place, down 5.7 percent to $7.40, while MGM MIRAGE was down 4.6 percent to $19.92.


Still, like Harrah’s, MGM MIRAGE and Park Place are seeing some indications that business may solidify in the coming weeks.


“In November and December, we’re seeing very little cancellation activity,” Murren said. “It’s rough right now, but that’s to be expected.” More about best online casino singapore


But Murren cautioned it’s far too early to draw conclusions.


“You don’t know necessarily what that means yet,” Murren said. “You don’t know whether people have a short window on their (travel) decisions and haven’t made those decisions … or whether that booking pattern will remain intact.”


Park Place, meanwhile, is seeing a spike in reservations over the Internet, Munch said.


“We’re hopeful we’ll see some significant improvement in October, and are beginning to see some improvement at individual properties,” Munch said. “But overall, the state of the airline industry is going to affect our business, especially in the Las Vegas market.”


Ehlers, however, isn’t convinced later months will be any better.


“I sense there is a lag here,” Ehlers said. “If I had plans to come to Las Vegas in October, I may have said, ‘Let’s not do anything yet, let’s let this thing shake out.”‘


Yet Murren insisted that the long-term fundamentals of Las Vegas remain sound, and that MGM MIRAGE and its neighbors on the Strip will be able to weather this storm.


“All of the companies in this industry are strong, and I think that’s an important point people need to remember,” Murren said. “Financially, we have the blessing of a very strong balance sheet. Park Place is strong. I think Mandalay Resort Group and Harrah’s and everyone else that operates here is in strong shape financially. We’re going to get through this.


“The casino industry and Las Vegas casinos are in much better shape financially than they’ve ever been, certainly more than they were 10 years ago (during the downturn caused by the Gulf War).”


And MGM MIRAGE remains profitable, despite the downturn of recent days, he said.


“Normally this time of year, we’d be making a lot of money,” Murren said. “Now we’re making a lot less, but the point is we’re making money.


“The underpinning of this company and this industry are sound. This is a good business model, and Las Vegas is a sound investment.”




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