Beau Rivage, Gold Strike Slash 100 Jobs To Combat Weak Economy

BILOXI (WLOX) -- One hundred managers and salaried employees at MGM Mirage's two Mississippi casinos have lost their jobs. And the layoffs at Beau Rivage and the Gold Strike Casino in Tunica County are being blamed on a struggling national economy.

A statement from MGM Mirage Mississippi's Vice President of Public Affairs Bruce Nourse said, "We're all aware of the downturn in the U.S. economy and as a result revenues have softened and profit margins are down across the gaming industry. This along with increased competition in our market has forced us to adjust our employment levels to reflect the changes in our business volumes."

The economy is playing havoc with everybody in the casino industry. One general manager at a back bay casino said, "It's rough out there right now."

Gamblers are feeling some of the pain being experienced by the casinos. Jimmy Lambert is a regular visitor at Biloxi casinos. On Tuesday, the Alabama man was at the Palace.

"I won $2. I bet $5 and won $2," he said. "That's about how the economy is going."

Lambert used to make weekly drives from Monroeville to Biloxi. But he's cut back on his casino junkets, because his pocketbook can't afford the gas it takes to get to the Mississippi coast.

Patricia Scott avoids that problem by taking a tour bus. But the retiree from Tampa, Florida isn't immune to financial struggles. Before the economy took a downturn, she'd bring at least $500 with her. On this trip, her gambling budget was $300.

Scott and Lambert both admit they're taking fewer chances with the fortune they each set aside for casino trips.

"You have to have enough to get back home, and then you have to have enough to come back again," said Lambert.

Before instituting its layoffs, MGM Mirage looked at its financial reports, and saw a trend.  The company determined gamblers had reduced their length of stays at hotels, and cut back on the number of shows they see at resorts.  Consequently, MGM Mirage spokesman Alan Feldman said, "There certainly is the possibility that there are people who are also making a decision to gamble less."

Barbara Allarg is from Rochester, New York. She falls into the category MGM Mirage cited.

"I would say we watch what we do. But we're okay," she said.

Palace General Manager Keith Crosby calls Biloxi "a competitive market right now." So every dollar he decides to spend right now -- whether it's on advertising or promotions -- must be geared toward repeat customers who will visit a property very soon.

"When times get tough, you're making an investment in the future and future visits," he said, right before he met with his casino's advertising firm. "We don't want one time visits. We want people coming back."

Tour buses still bring plenty of out-of-town gamblers to Biloxi. However the period between snowbird season and Memorial Day is always a struggle for south Mississippi casinos. Because of the nation's current economy, the summer tourism season may not be much better.

"I think it's going to be a little more difficult than it's been," Crosby conceded.

Besides the 100 managers and salaried employees at MGM Mirage properties in Biloxi and Tunica, 300 other MGM Mirage workers in Las Vegas and Detroit were also let go.