Casino lays off 70; Trimming workforce

By Josh Resnek

In business there is an iron law – if you don’t take in more than you spend you doom yourself to inevitable bankruptcy.

The Leaders of the Encore Boston Harbor are dealing with lower income than they had expected – much lower.

Key executives believed the casino and hotel would take in $800 million in twelve months.

The casino is currently cruising into a $600 million year and sales are much slower than expected.

Eight months have passed since the historic opening in June, with the mayor weeping, and then President of Encore Robert DeSalvio delivering the remarks of a man very pleased with his creation.

The mayor’s tears of joy have dried up.

DeSalvio is gone. He was fired or he resigned after five years of giving himself to Wynn Corporation when everything hung in the balance.

Now comes the first official announcement by Encore that employees are being laid off – mostly bartenders.

The bartenders, described by the company as back bartenders, are part of a remake of the workforce, which is a manifestation of who is needed and who is not.

Most discouraging about these layoffs, all layoffs being discouraging, is that the back bartenders who make up about 50 of those being laid off, according to industry experts, will be replaced by vending machines.

Encore is keeping to the industry standard of attempting to automate whatever it can to insure savings.

Robot type vending machines making drinks behind the scenes, preparing cocktails for waitresses, will replace humans presently doing the same job.

Robots have not yet been invented who might be able to serve the drinks on the gaming floor.

Bartenders who directly serve patrons will remain in place.

Many of those working as back bar employees left jobs at other restaurants and bars to come to Encore.

It is expected their efforts to gain back their former jobs will be difficult to impossible in the tight job market created in part by Encore’s absorbtion of so many restaurant, bar and hotel employees and executives.

The 70 being laid off will end their work experience with Encore on Friday.

A job fair was apparently held by Encore human resources to aid those being laid off to regain employment in other venues locally.

This is easier said than done.

Encore chose not to call the layoffs, layoffs.

Encore officials referred to the job losses as a rearrangement of priorities necessitated by economic realities.

“Rightsizing” is the exact word company officials used.

Employees who received word they are being laid off interviewed by a variety of news agencies that cover the casino business said they had hoped to find long-term jobs with Encore – careers.

For these 70, and for many more likely to be laid off unless business turns around in a big way, their careers at Encore will be very short.

The work force at Encore is estimated to be somewhere in the 5,500 range with Encore executives still trying to see what exactly works in the complex Greater Boston marketplace.

Wynn officials announced last month that the sprawling, $2.6 billion investment by the gaming giant lost almost $42 million during its first three months of operation.

At the time, Encore executives said that was not unexpected.

They predicted it would take a while to ramp up the casino and hotel operation and to blend it into this region for maximum earnings results. Company officials have repeatedly said they must figure out what works and what doesn’t in this marketplace.

A local official responded to the Encore “rightsizing” this way: “So they are rightsizing the workforce. Does this mean they will rightsize the price for a drink or a glass of wine which now is somewhere between $18 – $20?”

Good question, isn’t it.

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