Union wins another vote in effort to unionize Atlantic City

Jun 5, 2007 6:54 AM

Maybe it was the fear of the unknown that motivated those dealers at two Atlantic City casinos operated by Harrah’s Entertainment Inc. (HET) to join a union.

So far, in a drive by the United Auto Workers (UAW) to unionize all 11 casinos in Atlantic City, only three of the properties whose workers have had a chance to show their preference at the ballot box have approved the union, and two are Harrah’s properties, Caesars Atlantic City and Bally’s Atlantic City. The other was Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino.

Rejecting the union’s efforts were the dealers at Trump Marina Hotel/Casino and Atlantic City Hilton, a property owned by Colony Capital.

Harrah’s is in the process of being acquired by the partnership of the private equity firms Texas Pacific Group and Apollo Management LLP.

The Sunday vote at Bally’s was an overwhelming victory for the UAW. The final tally of votes cast by full and part-time dealers, dual-rate dealers, keno and simulcast employees was 628-255.

The UAW already represents dealers at the three Detroit gambling halls: MGM Grand Detroit Casino, MotorCity Casino and Greektown Casino.

In Las Vegas, so far, only the dealers at Wynn Resorts (WYNN) have elected to join a union, in this case the Transportation Workers Union of America.

But the union drive in the country’s two largest gambling centers has drawn a warning from one of the world’s largest casinos, the Foxwoods Resort/Casino operated by the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe in Connecticut.

In a letter to Foxwoods’ employees last week, President John O’Brien noted that he was "deeply concerned" about efforts by union organizers and urged employees to reject authorization cards requiring a vote on union representation.

"Unions typically make all kinds of claims about how they will make things ”˜better’" O’Brien wrote. "Everything, including the things you like most about working here, could be at risk."

A recent court ruling provided that Indian tribes, despite their sovereign status, are required to comply with rules established by the National Labor Relations Act, including workers’ right to organize and bargain collectively.

The union drive among dealers in Atlantic City comes at a time when the casinos are facing an additional challenge from Pennsylvania where racinos have sprouted and stand-alone casinos are in the process of being developed. Also, some New Jersey politicos have been urging their fellow lawmakers to approve slot machines for the Meadowlands racetrack to help it maintain competitive purses.

As for Harrah’s, a number of employees are concerned that negative changes will take place when the private equity firms take over, probably late this year or early next year.

They note that at Tropicana Casino and Resort on the Atlantic City Boardwalk, nearly 700 jobs have been eliminated since the property was bought by the privately-held Columbia Sussex Corp.

IGT promotions

A number of high-level promotions were made over the weekend by the directors of International Game Technology (IGT), several stemming from the previously-announced resignation of executive vice president and CFO Maureen Mullarkey.

While the company continues a search for a new CFO, it will look to Daniel Siciliano as its chief accounting officer and treasurer. And in a new post will be Stephen Morro who has been named Chief Operating Officer.

Both individuals are long-standing IGT employees.

Promoted to the position of vice president of investor relations was Pat Cavanaugh, who has been serving as director of corporate finance.

Also moving up in the executive structure are Eric Vetter, senior vice president of finance, and Jean Venneman, senior vice president of product development.

No ”˜Virtual’ here

Slots operators in West Virginia insist they plan to have live dealers, not virtual dealers, if the voters in their respective districts approve the addition of table games to their operations.

In fact, that is exactly what motivated lawmakers to approve the legislation: jobs.

Although emerging technology now offers casino operators the choice of hiring live dealers for their table games or to buy machines that offer virtual dealers.

Virtual dealers, point out the machine supporters, never get sick, never need a break and can deal twice as many hands as the live dealers.

And, even though live dealers require salaries, benefits and sick pay, the lawmakers insisted the addition of table games would result in the addition of new jobs, and the racino operators insist that will be their goal, as well.

THE INSIDER: Gaming Partners International Corporation (GPIC) announced Monday it had completed an order valued at about $1 million in equipment for Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino in Las Vegas.

MGM MIRAGE Inc. (MGM) has agreed to a contract extension while talks continue with the Culinary Workers Union on a new contract.

An analyst at Morgan Joseph & Co. has lowered some estimates on Isle of Capri Casinos Inc. (ISLE) saying the management needs to reduce debt and divest lower quality properties if it is to prosper.

Some major shareholders in Boyd Gaming Corp. (BYD) are suggesting the company should ditch its plans to build the Echelon Place on the site for the former Stardust Hotel/Casino and sell the real estate.

Still no word on when The Meadows Racetrack & Casino will open in Pennsylvania. The property, owned by Las Vegas entrepreneurs Bill Paulos and Bill Wortman, has its scheduled opening postpones for security reasons last week.

Ameristar Casinos Inc. (ASCA) has announced a $100 million expansion of its casino in Council Bluffs, Iowa.