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Gaming Guru

Jeff Simpson
 

Casino Closing: Horseshoe Employees Getting Aid

20 January 2004

LAS VEGAS -- While executives continued talks Monday to complete Harrah's $50 million deal to buy Binion's Horseshoe, more than 200 of the closed casino's workers sought assistance from Nevada Partners and the Culinary Training Academy.

Lawyers for Harrah's Entertainment and Binion's owner Becky Binion Behnen met Saturday and Sunday and discussed terms for the proposed deal that would have Harrah's take over the 52-year old hotel-casino in exchange for assuming about $50 million in Horseshoe debt, sources said.

Behnen was believed to have met with senior Harrah's bosses Monday after making significant progress Friday on completing the deal first announced Jan. 12.

She was forced to close the casino when she was unwilling or unable to replenish its depleted bankroll after U.S. marshals entered the casino Jan. 9 and seized more than $1 million in cash for the Culinary union's health and pension plans.

Harrah's officials are hopeful the negotiations can be wrapped up quickly.

"Substantial headway was made in talks on Friday and we expect to keep making progress toward a definitive agreement," Harrah's spokesman Gary Thompson said Monday.

Some of the workers who sought assistance Monday from Nevada Partners and the Culinary Training Academy said they wanted to train for a new career, while others took classes on employability skills.

Other workers said they hoped Harrah's would hurry up and buy the property so they can get back to work.

Emma Pruitt, a 23-year Binion's veteran, was a Horseshoe porter, and hopes she'll be able to keep her job at the downtown landmark.

In the meantime, she's short on cash, she said.

"I want help with my bills and my rent," Pruitt said as she filled out paperwork while her niece sat next to her, noting that the casino closing caught her unprepared.

"I was in shock," she said.

But Pruitt may be in luck.

Some federal government funds are available to out-of-work Binion's employees under the Workforce Reinvestment Act.

The act provides limited financial assistance to displaced workers on a first-come, first-served basis, said Pam Egan, director of communications and curriculum development for Nevada Partners.

The mission of Nevada Partners and the Culinary Training Academy is to reduce poverty and unemployment, Nevada Partners President and Chief Executive Officer Steven Horsford said Monday afternoon.

The North Las Vegas job skills center's 50 workers agreed to work on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, normally a day off, to honor the memory of King and help the Horseshoe workers, Horsford said.

Nevada Partners employee Angela Gardner, who helped Binion's workers fill out paperwork, said the sacrifice of a day off was worth it.

"This was important to the community so we wanted to help," she said.

Many of the Horseshoe workers have 20 or more years of experience, Horsford said.

Their extensive work experience should help the workers if they seek new jobs, Horsford said, but it also means they probably need help with finding a job.

"They've been out of the job market for a long time, they're not used to current interviewing techniques," Horsford said. "On the other hand, they have really good work histories and we're optimistic they'll get back to work soon."

Egan said Binion's closing could negatively effect Las Vegas' black community because the job losses will add to an already high unemployment rate among black and Hispanic workers.

"It probably had the highest percentage of African-Americans of any property, and also had a high percentage of Filipino-Americans," explained Culinary Secretary-Treasurer D. Taylor, who also added that the property had far fewer Hispanic workers than most of its competitors.

Egan's boss, Horsford, worries about another effect of Binion's closing.

"Binion's was one of the few hotel-industry employers who hired people with problems in their backgrounds," Horsford said. "Now that it's closed, we'll have another obstacle for (workers with criminal histories)."

Casino Closing: Horseshoe Employees Getting Aid is republished from Online.CasinoCity.com.