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April 20, 2014

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Looking in on: Gaming:

No win-win for Wynn, former dealer

Casino has to post notice on right to organize, but ex-worker gets zip

Wynn Las Vegas recently posted a notice acknowledging it can’t threaten workers with discharge if they go on strike, it can’t discipline workers for engaging in legal union organizing activities and it may not threaten employees by saying it is futile to join a union.

This notice, which must be posted for 60 days, is just about the only fallout from the National Labor Relations Board complaint filed against the casino by one of Wynn’s former dealers, Cynthia Fields, who alleged in the complaint that she was threatened with loss of her job if she joined a union. After she filed her complaint, the company fired her, claiming she walked off the job. She denied it.

The case has no bearing on casino boss Steve Wynn’s controversial tip-sharing policy, which led to the dealer meeting that triggered Fields’ complaint and that remains in force at his property.

Fields neither got her job back nor won compensation from Wynn.

Neither Wynn nor the National Labor Relations Board’s Las Vegas office, which represented Fields, chose to appeal the decision by administrative law Judge Burton Litvack, which was released in January.

Litvack’s decision contained disparaging comments about Fields as well as about some of Wynn’s employees, suggesting that witnesses either lied in court or didn’t tell the whole truth.

Legal experts say it would be difficult for either party to move beyond the subjective interpretations involving the credibility of so many witnesses, which could be one reason why they are letting the decision stand.

For Wynn, the notice Litvack ordered posted is little more than a slap on the wrist.

So did Wynn really break the law?

Attorneys who represent employers say workers may misinterpret employer speeches against unions as threats. Employers are allowed to explain to their workers why they think they shouldn’t join a union.

“It’s not uncommon for employees to interpret what an employer is saying as a threat while what the employer is trying to do is get its side of the story (out),” Las Vegas labor attorney Patrick Hicks said.

•••

The Transport Workers Union, which wants to organize Strip casino dealers, is claiming an early victory of sorts at MGM Mirage, which recently awarded its casino dealers a raise.

“We’ve helped them without even getting involved,” said Joseph Carbon, director of Transport Workers Union Local 721, which prevailed in union votes at Wynn Las Vegas and Caesars Palace. “But I don’t think this is going to change anyone’s mind about not joining the union.”

MGM Mirage officials say the raises will level the playing field among dealers at various properties, including those acquired from Mandalay Resort Group in 2005. The raises aren’t meant to fend off union organizing efforts, the company says. MGM Mirage has also said it has no plans to implement a tip-sharing plan similar to the one that prompted the union vote at Wynn Las Vegas.

Moreover, the company’s major competitor on the Strip, Harrah’s Entertainment, says it has no plans to follow suit.

“We’re taking a look at what MGM Mirage has done,” Harrah’s spokesman Gary Thompson said.

•••

While resorts attract customers with their nightclubs, the Riviera is banking on its sports book.

There’s been lots of talk about the redevelopment of the Riviera, which is still in the midst of an ownership battle among multiple shareholders who won’t give up their stake without a fight.

While shareholders squabble and financing for major projects remains in doubt, Riviera executives are spending more than $25 million to remodel the property’s hotel rooms and expand its sports book, which opened anew before the Super Bowl and features a streetfront 60-foot-high high-definition reader board with crawling sports betting odds — the first such sign on the Strip.

The Crazy Leroy’s sports book became the flagship operation of Leroy’s, Nevada’s largest sports book operator.

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