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Casino Workers In Las Vegas On Strike Against Automation

Ryan Knuppel

Las Vegas has always followed the latest trends when it comes to mixing technology with gambling, and this resulted in projects such as Tipsy Robot – a casino where cocktails are mixed by a robot arm, robots deliver drinks, etc. One thing that made many casino workers scared is that they could be easily replaced by robots in the future. In other words, Tipsy Robot can cause tens of thousands of workers to lose their jobs and be replaced by the automated processes. This resulted in preparation for massive strikes all over the Las Vegas, and this could actually impact dozens of casinos in this city.

Although the date is still not set, the talks between worker unions are in progress and, so far, the staff from properties such as Circus Circus, The Mirage, Mandalay Bay, and Bellagio are ready to go to the streets and express their disappointment. The strike could also impact other events in the city. For example, one of the biggest events in recent history is about to happen where Golden Knights will compete in the Stanley Cup finals at T-Mobile Arena. It is a resort owned by MGM and there could be a disaster should the casinos stop working during that time. This will mean that the thousands of fans of hockey will cancel their reservations or simply be utterly disappointed.

However, the job security threats which are imposed by the possible automation in the future is not the only thing that the workers are protesting about. The Culinary and Bartenders Union, which represents all the service workers in the casino also demanded wage increases and workload quotas change. Namely, on June 1, the contract expired for the MGM Resorts International’s bartenders, cocktail servers, cooks, and other staff. This resulted in the talks between the union and MGM which were about the future of their workers.

Bethany Khan, a spokeswoman for the Union, stated that the workers do their best to make the business profitable and that they sacrificed a lot during the great recession. She argued that the workers had always been MGM’s best shareholders and that it was them they should look at first. The last longest strike in Las Vegas happened in 1984 when it lasted for 67 days. If this strike were of similar length, some of the estimates say that this could cost MGM Resorts as much as $200 million.

The introduction of the machines and automatized processes in the gambling industry is not a new issue, however. It all started with making the games themselves computer-based. Then, the change girls were replaced, and the prep cooks and bakers were also shaken up by the massive food preparation and distribution. Khan stated that introducing machines is inevitable but that it should not be a reason to let go the worker. Instead, the workers should be trained and their jobs altered to function along with the machines.

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