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Potential For Las Vegas Casino Workers Strike Looms As World Series Of Poker Kicks Off

Rio All Suite Hotel and Casino Wouldn't Be Directly Affected


The 2018 World Series of Poker begins Wednesday in Las Vegas, which will draw tens of thousands of poker players from across the world to the city this summer.

The annual poker festival starts this year, however, during a rare moment for the city—a looming casino workers strike that could begin late this week and pose a problem for a city that welcomes more than 40 million visitors each year. According to the union representing the workers, the last time Las Vegas casino employees staged a mass walkout it “crippled the Las Vegas hospitality industry.”

The contracts of 50,000 members of the city’s Culinary Union will expire at midnight Thursday. Those workers come from 34 different casinos spread between the Strip and Downtown Las Vegas. They include bartenders, guest room attendants, cocktail servers, food servers, porters, bellman, cooks and kitchen workers, according to the union.

The Rio casino-hotel, which houses the WSOP in its sprawling convention center, isn’t among the casinos that could be affected, according to the union’s website. Seth Palansky, spokesperson for the WSOP, relayed to Card Player that there hasn’t been any hiccup with this year’s poker festival. “We’re focused on getting everything in place to open on Tuesday and are excited to welcome everyone to this year’s event,” Palansky said via email.

The 2017 WSOP saw a record turnout, and numbers are expected to grow again this year. There were more than 120,000 entries combined between the 74 tournaments on the 2017 schedule. Players from 111 different countries traveled to Sin City to compete on poker’s biggest stage.

Last week, half of the 50,000 workers voted to authorize a strike kicking off June 1 or later. Negotiations over issues such as wages, sexual harassment policies and automation in the service industry have been ongoing since February. Despite the vote, which saw 99 percent support the strike, there is still plenty of time for a deal before there’s an impact to casino operations across the valley.

“A strike is a last resort," Geoconda Argüello-Kline, Secretary-Treasurer for the Culinary Union, said in a statement. "We want to come to an agreement, but the union and workers are preparing for a citywide strike if contracts are not settled by June 1. We support innovations that improve jobs, but we oppose automation when it only destroys jobs. Our industry must innovate without losing the human touch.”

Chad Neanover, a cook at Caesars’ Margaritaville put it more bluntly: “I voted yes to go on strike to ensure my job isn’t outsourced to a robot.”

The union last voted to strike in 2002, but a deal was brokered before the walkout. The last citywide strike occurred more than 30 years ago, and it lasted more than two months.

Caesars, owner of the WSOP, and rival casino operator MGM Resorts told the Associated Press that they expect to reach agreements with the Culinary Union.

Tags: 2018 WSOP,   Rio,   Las Vegas,   Strike,   Nevada