Another G2E goes into the record books. Attendees seemed to show more optimism this year, and American Gaming Association (AGA) CEO Frank J. Fahrenkopf Jr. cited preliminary numbers better than at any time since 2008. Either there is cautionary confidence or the industry is adjusting to conditions as they are. I am not sure.
One of my favorite industry friends was absent, having just received his layoff notice. On the flip side, another longtime friend has finally found fulltime industry work after almost two years of unemployment. He worked in executive positions for more than 25 years before being let go from his prior job right after G2E 2010. Imagine his excitement when he was recently hired for a management position close to his home, giving him a new lease on life.
I believe that most people want to at least hold a job and put in an honest day’s work for an honest dollar. I also believe people who work harder and smarter deserve greater rewards than people who don’t, but the job must actually exist.
During the G2E, I dined at one of the Wynn resort’s restaurants. Like all past and present Steve Wynn properties, the Wynn is drop dead gorgeous, as is Encore, its adjacent sister site. From the moment Wynn changed Las Vegas forever by opening the Mirage in 1989, he became the iconic master of the magnificent and a major employer who believes in his employees.
The week after the show, Wynn sat down for a two-part exclusive interview with Nevada TV anchor Jon Ralston, who had just moderated the G2E “State of the Industry” panel. Wynn described terrible business conditions, but explained how he has adjusted, thanks to his so-called “luck.”
Wynn revealed that by using up to $200 million of Macau profits in Las Vegas, he could improve his buildings and avoid staff layoffs. Wynn insisted that these international profits have paid to reinforce employee satisfaction with benefits and cost of living pay increases. He insists that ultimately translates into good customer service. Over 45 years, Wynn has created 250,000 direct jobs and tens of thousands of indirect jobs. He currently employs 12,000 in Las Vegas and 8,000 in Macau.
Wynn also described an invitation to join a development venture of a new property and convention center on 34 acres across the Strip from his hotels. He stated that another 10,000 direct and 30,000 indirect jobs would have resulted, but Wynn rejected the offer. Why? He refuses to risk the capital because of the uncertain American business climate.
A Democrat and 2008 Obama voter, Wynn has since become an Obama critic. He lamented that he and others, not only in gaming but in many industries, have basically frozen their hiring and development plans.
“…Guys like me are job creators…every business guy I know in the country is frightened of Barack Obama and the way he thinks,” he said.
When many of you read this, the American election will be over. If results don’t go the way Wynn wants, what will the overall impact be? If he is right that gaming operators and their suppliers are holding back from hiring, will the industry grow?
It is not a hypothetical. My friend’s daughter has dealt poker in a Philadelphia casino for over a year. Working part-time and in her 30s, the daughter needs more income and benefits. However, the work is not there, or at least her casino employer is choosing to use more part-timers. I have heard the same complaint in Atlantic City.
Is this work pattern is the wave of the future. Does it matter who is president when it comes to advocating economics that facilitate job growth? Or, does the Senate, under Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, and the House, under Republican Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, hold more sway on taxes and the business climate? Reid has not brought a national budget to a vote in years. And, Boehner has also been unsuccessful in doing much.
As a New Jersey resident, I don’t live in a “swing state” where the demographics pretty much determine the outcome. This is frustrating because I want my ballot to have equal value as those voters in the “swing battleground states”, regardless of my choice. Taking comfort where I can, I will utilize my voting power to elect federal legislators who think of their country’s needs first before their own.