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Best of Benjamin Spillman

Gaming Guru

Benjamin Spillman
 

Six downtown casinos strike deal with unions

19 October 2007

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- Owners of six downtown Las Vegas casinos struck tentative labor agreements that will keep about 2,000 unionized workers on the job.

Bargaining as a group on Thursday, the owners of the El Cortez, Western, Fitzgeralds, Las Vegas Club, Plaza and Four Queens struck the deal with Culinary Local 226 and Bartenders Local 165.

The deal came three days after a union-imposed deadline to conclude talks. The members will vote Saturday on whether to ratify the contract.

Union negotiators wanted deals to replace expired contracts from 2002. Job security was a top concern for the workers, with five of the six properties having changed hands since the last contract began.

"The six properties we reached settlements with today are some of Las Vegas' oldest and are really the foundation of the Las Vegas dream," said D. Taylor, secretary-treasurer for the union, invoking the union's catch-phrase for decent-paying jobs with benefits at local casinos.

Casino owners wanted to make sure they don't agree to contracts they can't afford given the precarious economics of the downtown gambling market. Casinos downtown are winning less from gamblers today than they were 10 years ago.

"When you sign a contract you are basically establishing the law of the shop for the next five years," said Gregory Kamer, who negotiated on behalf of casino owners, before the talks began. "It can't be rushed."

Earlier this week, the union struck tentative deals with two Boyd Gaming Corp. casinos downtown and the Golden Nugget. Members have a ratification vote scheduled Saturday.

Once deals are in place downtown, the union will shift its focus to unsettled properties. On Fremont Street, those include Binion's and the Golden Gate.

Golden Gate, with 106 rooms, is one of the smallest Fremont Street casinos and union leaders said they don't plan to target the property with a strike deadline.

Binion's is undergoing a change in ownership with current owners MTR Gaming of Chester, W. Va., in the process of selling to Terry Caudill, owner of the Four Queens, for $32 million. Union leaders say they expect some sort of short-term agreement to keep workers on the job until they secure a long-term pact with Caudill. Jerry's Nugget in North Las Vegas is also without a deal for its unionized help.

On the Strip, the Tropicana is yet to sign a new labor deal, as are two large laundries that provide service for downtown and Strip casino-hotels.