Majestic Star cuts staff, closes one casino floor

2011-06-15T18:30:00Z 2011-06-16T19:45:51Z Majestic Star cuts staff, closes one casino floorBy Keith Benman keith.benman@nwi.com, (219) 933-3326 nwitimes.com

GARY | Majestic Star Casinos implemented staff cuts this week that have affected about 50 employees at the two gaming boats, according to General Manager Larry Buck.

Some of the full-time employees affected were offered and accepted part-time jobs, and others were laid off, Buck said.

The cuts were among those recommended by efficiency consultants hired by Majestic Star creditors; cuts will include closing the top floor of Majestic Star II and moving its poker room to a lower level, Buck said. The deli on that floor also will be closed.

"The economy continues to be difficult and challenging, so like most businesses we have to look short-term and long-term and try to do what's best for our company and our guests," Buck said.

Union officials said they were informed of the cuts in a meeting Friday, and they feared massive cuts were in the offing.

"This represents another example of the exact opposite of what was promised when riverboat gaming came to Northwest Indiana, which was jobs and economic development," said Tim Barnes, a representative for Unite Here Local 1, which represents about 300 employees at the boats.

Barnes said union officials were told about half the hotel rooms at Majestic Star would be closed. Buck said the hotel is never fully booked, and he confirmed some of the affected staff members worked there.

Casino revenues at Northwest Indiana's five gaming boats were down 8 percent in May. At the Majestic Star boats they were down 8.6 percent. However, for much of the past year Majestic Star has notched year-over-year revenue increases, with marked improvement from its pre-bankruptcy take.

The cuts at Majestic Star come as all casinos in Northwest Indiana are warily watching the progress of legislation in Illinois that would massively expand gaming there, including the establishment of a Chicago casino.

Majestic Star Casinos filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in November 2009. In March of this year, a bankruptcy judge approved a reorganization plan that could pave the way for the company to exit bankruptcy by year's end.

The Indiana Gaming Commission earlier this month renewed Majestic Star's gaming licenses after receiving assurances that steady management remained at the company's helm, despite the death last month of founder Don Barden after a long illness.

Majestic Star also owns and operates gaming properties in Tunica, Miss., and Black Hawk, Colo.

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