|By Liz Benston, Las Vegas
SunMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Feb. 08, 2011--MGM Resorts International is aiming to boost the flagging fortunes of its $8.5 billion CityCenter development on the Strip, in part by reducing its biggest expense: labor.
Aria had about 5,300 "full-time equivalents" as of Dec. 31, down from about 8,800 a year earlier, according to a document sent to investors last month. The 5,300 figure doesn't represent the number of people working there. Full-time equivalents is a human resources term that quantifies labor expenses by adding up the hours of all employees and dividing that by 40, which represents a full-time workweek.
MGM Resorts doesn't have an official employee head count for Aria, a figure that's in flux as the company adjusts staffing to meet demand, company spokeswoman Yvette Monet said. According to the company's initial figures, CityCenter began operations in December 2009 with about 10,000 employees, but that includes people employed by third parties such as retailers.
The company claims it reduced expenses mostly by attrition, or not filling jobs when workers leave on their own, rather than through layoffs or forced reductions in hours worked. Layoffs represent a small fraction of the reduction in hours, Monet said.
"The FTE reductions show our increased ability to gain efficiencies in scheduling and operations," she said.
Service apparently hasn't suffered because of staff cuts, as reflected in Aria's Five Diamond designation and improving TripAdvisor customer service scores, according to the document. The paper is a memorandum for a $1.5 billion bond offering to pay down and postpone about $2 billion in debt owed on CityCenter, which MGM owns with partner Dubai World.
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The state's sobering budget forecast for fiscal years 2012 and 2013, still some $2 billion in the hole compared with the state's spending needs, was based on conservative predictions of modest increases in the gambling and sales taxes that make up nearly two-thirds of Nevada's general fund.
One of the state's advisers thinks gambling revenue will grow by only single digits through 2015, barring a significant and unexpected resurgence in the economy and demand for travel.
Even as the economy improves, Las Vegas faces stiffening competition for gambling and other amenities offered by casino resorts at home and abroad, said Bill Eadington, an economics professor and director of the Institute for the Study of Gambling and Commercial Gaming at UNR.
With no new resorts to stimulate demand in the coming years, "you're really pushed back to the issue of how clever management can be" in developing new innovations across the board, including gaming and entertainment, Eadington said.
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If it seems like more people are winning big slot jackpots in recent months, that may be because slot giant International Game Technology last year began posting on its website information on anonymous winners of its MegaJackpot-branded machines.
Though no names are disclosed for those who decline to sign media release forms, the world's largest manufacturer of slot machines lists contact info for the casinos where MegaJackpots hit and the amounts won.
So while Thomas Simpson didn't mind telling the world that he'd won $259,094 playing a 25-cent Wheel of Fortune machine Jan. 14 at Aria, the woman who won $12.8 million playing a $1 Megabucks machine at the same casino seven days later wisely chose to remain anonymous -- no doubt foiling the efforts of various service professionals, like financial planners, who now have a handy reference guide of the instantly wealthy.
January was one of the more prolific months for jackpots, with 17 gamblers winning a combined $21 million. Gamblers won about that much in December on MegaJackpot devices, though the average monthly jackpot total was only $12 million from July though December.
Skewed by the $12.8 million win, January yielded an average of $1.2 million per gambler and a win every other day. Only seven of last month's MegaJackpot winners chose to remain anonymous. At least five, including Simpson, agreed to pose for an obligatory -- and downloadable -- photo with an oversized check in hand.
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