Sharon Walimaki remembers when Beau Rivage was owned by Mirage Resorts, and it considered downsizing some of its staff. "Barry Shier, Steve Wynn didn't lay us off," she said. "I remember having my hours cut like one day extra off. But that didn't matter, at least we had a check."
But last week, the checks disappeared when Beau Rivage and Casino Magic did cut jobs.
After the layoffs, Beau asked the state to host two job assistance forums to help the 400 former casino workers. Walimaki attended the workshop. She actually said Beau Rivage did her a favor by eliminating her position. "I'm going back to school," she said. "I'm going to a different field."
Ron Bourgeois doesn't have that luxury. "I'm 53 years old," he said. "There isn't a whole lot I can do except go out there and look, you know." He will look for another casino job.
Lee Hutcheson coordinated the job assistance program. He told the laid off casino workers the Mississippi Employment Security Commission "can't guarantee jobs. But we can make sure that they have all the services available to maximize the chance of them finding a job."
People like Angelica Martinez spent nine years in the casino industry. But her experience didn't matter when Casino Magic reorganized its operation. Martinez said, "It was very easy for them. But hard on me. But I'm going to go on."
So will Peggy Smith and Clanson Trahan. The roommates recenlty bought new furniture, and a new computer. Then they both lost their casino jobs. So they sat around their apartment, and tried to figure out how to pay for everything. Smith said the casinos have "taken you up in quality of life. And now they've dropped you back down."
Bourgeois had a similar viewpoint. His layoff "puts kind of a bad wash on the casinos right now for us. Where this was supposed to be our big hope, now it's not looking like that anymore."