97°F
weather icon Clear

Laid-off Las Vegas MGM staff navigating tight hospitality market

Two months after she was laid off from her job at MGM Resorts International, Mali Catello is still looking for work.

After spending nearly two years with the company, the former director of learning delivery saw her department go from 14 members to five in one day. Now, Catello said, she spends much of her time adjusting to life without work, figuring out how to collect unemployment benefits and searching for job opportunities online.

“A lot of the positions that were eliminated are leadership positions, which are difficult to come by, especially with the numbers eliminated,” said Catello, whose job was to lead a team that welcomed new hires. “Those are not positions that are easily found in Las Vegas.”

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate in Nevada hit 4 percent in April — a 13-year low as employment statewide grew by 2,800 jobs.

But former MGM Resorts staff members say finding a new job in hospitality, the state’s largest industry, isn’t easy.

MGM announced its MGM 2020 plan in January, saying it would improve cash flow by $200 million annually by the end of 2020 and an additional $100 million by the end of 2021. The initiative, which lays the groundwork for the company’s digital transformation, resulted in the loss of 1,070 jobs, 881 of which were in Las Vegas. The final cuts occurred May 30.

MGM spokesman Brian Ahern said all former employees received two weeks of severance pay for every year of service with the company — up to 26 weeks for salaried employees and 13 weeks for hourly positions. They also received a two-week nonworking notice period that included health care and other benefits and were offered several months of career transition services.

“From the outset, we have been focused on treating employees fairly and with the utmost appreciation for their skills and hard work,” Ahern said via email.

The job cuts came at a good time for some, like former MGM Grand casino shift manager Richard Fried. After 25 years with the company, the 64-year-old decided to accept a buyout and retire a year earlier than planned.

Fried is using his newfound free time on hobbies — like trading stocks — and is planning a two-month trip to visit family in France.

Others weren’t so lucky.

MGM said most of the positions cut were in management and middle management.

That leaves former MGM managers like Cynthia JourdanSmith struggling to find work. The former group revenue optimization manager said she’s competing for the same jobs as her former colleagues, and she has run into them at job interviews.

“It’s very competitive,” she said.

BLS data show the state added 3,600 leisure and hospitality jobs in 2018, the fewest jobs added in that category since 2012. Two of the first four months of 2019 showed a drop in jobs in the sector.

Leaving Las Vegas

RCG Economics’ John Restrepo said those unable to find work have two options: find a career in another industry or leave Las Vegas.

After two months of searching for work in Las Vegas, JourdanSmith said she’s planning to find a job near Los Angeles, and she has considered switching industries. She’s taking online classes that would allow her to apply for hospital administration positions.

“There’s nothing in Las Vegas,” she said. “I’ve been on a couple interviews, but it’s hard. So many people are in the market looking.”

Catello said she’s looking at openings on the East and West coasts, despite living in Las Vegas the past 25 years.

A former MGM employee who used to work in human resources said people who were laid off from more gaming-specific jobs, like pit managers, are also having a tough time.

Their job “only applied to casinos. … There’s not a lot of those jobs available,” said the employee, who did not want to be named, fearing harm to employment opportunities. “If you’re willing to move, that’s great.”

#254strong

Some former MGM employees have found support through the networking website LinkedIn.

Just hours after she was let go, Catello helped create the #254strong LinkedIn hashtag, named after the number of employees cut at the end of April. Others have transformed the hashtag into an online group that allows members to share job openings, advice and referrals.

As of this past week, the group has close to 300 members, many of whom are still looking for work.

“I feel if I can at least help one person, I’m adding value. I’m being productive,” Catello said.

Some gaming companies in Las Vegas have expressed interest in absorbing some former MGM employees. For example, Wynn Resorts Ltd. is co-hosting a career fair with The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas on Tuesday that’s open to veterans and workers affected by MGM 2020. Wynn is looking to fill 44 positions, including general managers, designers, receptionists and cooks.

Caesars Entertainment Corp. spokesman Richard Broome said the company would “certainly consider former MGM employees who apply for an open position at Caesars where they have relevant experience.” According to the company’s website, it has more than 450 positions open in Las Vegas.

Spokesmen for Boyd Gaming Corp., Red Rock Resorts Inc. and Las Vegas Sands Corp. declined to comment for this story.

“This has understandably been a difficult time for those whose positions were eliminated,” Ahern said via email. “We would not be taking these steps regarding this reorganization if we did not believe they were necessary to the long-term interests of the company.”

The Review-Journal is owned by the family of Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson.

Contact Bailey Schulz at bschulz@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0233. Follow @bailey_schulz on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Business Videos
There's a new place to play board games in Las Vegas
Matt Smiciklas, co-owner of Boarding School Games, talks about the new Las Vegas business that he co-owns with Emily Labejof. Dedicated tabletop gamers can choose from more than 500 games to play for free in-store. The doors open to the public Saturday, July 20, 2019. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Renovations at the STRAT
Analysts say the $140 million renovation project at The STRAT, formerly the known as the Stratosphere, could help the hotel-casino compete with the evolving north side of the Las Vegas Strip. (Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
SLS Las Vegas will become Sahara Las Vegas
Owner Alex Meruelo announced during a special event at the SLS Las Vegas that the hotel-casino will become Sahara Las Vegas in its next iteration. Meruelo said $150 million dollars will be spent to renovate the current property. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Aircraft hinge maker moves to "business friendly" Nevada
Doug Silva, president of Aircraft Hinge, Inc. in Las Vegas, makes every type of hinge for every type of airplane. Silva talks about his company and why he moved it to Nevada. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Daytime fireworks mark the opening of Encore Boston Harbor
The opening of the $2.6 billion Encore Boston Harbor in Everett, Mass. included a three-minute fireworks show launched by Fireworks by Grucci Sunday, June 23, 2019. (Rick Velotta/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @RickVelotta
Elaine Wynn talks about the opening of Encore Boston Harbor
Elaine Wynn, co-founder and largest shareholder of Wynn Resorts, talked during opening festivities of the $2.6 billion Encore Boston Harbor in Everett, Mass. Sunday, June 23, 2019. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
People line hours ahead of opening for Encore Boston Harbor
Guests arrive as much as 17 hours early for the 10 a.m. opening of the $2.6 billion, 671-room resort in Everett, Mass. Sunday, June 23, 2019. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @reviewjournal.com
Allegiant Discusses Investments In Golf Course Software And Game Rooms - Video
Allegiant Discusses Investments In Golf Course Software And Game Rooms.
Crews working 24/7 to complete Circa downtown - VIDEO
Owner Derek Stevens goal is to open the doors to the 1.25 million-square-foot project by December 2020. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Golden Knights Marc-Andre Fleury sells Las Vegas home - VIDEO
Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury has sold his custom home Southern Highlands home in Las Vegas for $2.3 million.
Las Vegas Strip resorts slow to welcome Alexa, Google Home Hub
Alexa, where are you? Smart home and hospitality technology was big at CES in early January. Amazon and Google promoted their voice-activated speakers Alexa and Google Home Hub. Hospitality executives have called the speakers the industry’s future. Yet for all the hype, the revolution is unfolding at a cautious pace on the Strip as well as in other major U.S. hospitality markets. Hotels are focusing their consumer-facing technology investments on adding streaming capabilities, like Netflix, and enhancing their mobile apps, a December report by Hospitality Technology showed. Voice-enabled technology is 10th on that priority list.
What is MGM 2020
MGM Resorts International announced its MGM 2020 plan in January, The plan would improve cash flow by $200 million annually by the end of 2020 and an additional $100 million by the end of 2021. 1,070 jobs were cut as part of the cost-cutting initiative. 881 of those were Las Vegas employees, mostly in management or mid-management positions. Jim Murren
What is MGM 2020
MGM Resorts International announced its MGM 2020 plan in January, The plan would improve cash flow by $200 million annually by the end of 2020 and an additional $100 million by the end of 2021. 1,070 jobs were cut as part of the cost-cutting initiative. 881 of those were Las Vegas employees, mostly in management or mid-management positions. Jim Murren
Find next-level experience
One minute, you’re just trimming hedges and shooting the breeze with your neighbor. But then he brings up Vegas and you’re thinking about the incredible meals, world-class hotels, pools inside of pools and unparalleled entertainment. You’re thinking about iconic artist residencies like Aerosmith. Priorities take shape. Vegas first, lawn and everything else, second. Just like that, Vegas Changes Everything. (Visti Las Vegas/Youtube)
Vegas Changes Everything
A weekend getaway is nice for anyone, but a weekend getaway in Vegas ... that’s a next-level experience with shows, clubs, spas and more. With a chance to see iconic artist residencies like Gwen Stefani, you might just find yourself going from pushing your child on a swing, to pushing back a birthday party. See how Vegas Changes Everything. (Visit Las Vegas/YouTube)
How much do Las Vegas casino CEOs make?
Las Vegas gaming CEOs made anywhere between $1 million and $24 million last year, according to company filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. ((Las Vegas Review-Journal)
30-year-old Rio needs a little TLC
Nearly 30 years after the Rio opened, the red and blue jewel that helped catapult Las Vegas to a new level with its buffet and nightclub has lost its status along with its shine.
The latest on the Drew Las Vegas - VIDEO
Eli Segall recounts his tour of the Drew Las Vegas, formerly the Fontainebleau, on the Las Vegas Strip. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pinball Hall of Fame to move near south Strip
Operators of the Pinball Hall of Fame have been approved to build a new, larger arcade near the south edge of the Strip on Las Vegas Boulevard near Russel Road. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
National Hardware Show underway Las Vegas
The National Hardware Show kicked off Tuesday at the Las Vegas Convention Center (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Caesars for sale?
Caesars Entertainment Corp. has been swept up in takeover speculation since the company’s share price tumbled last year amid disappointing earnings and concerns over a recession. Amid the decline, hedge funds scooped up shares. Billionaire activist investor Carl Icahn began buying shares of Caesars as early as January. Icahn acquired nearly 18 percent by mid-March. In February Icahn called on the Caesars board to study a sale as a way to boost shareholder value.
Las Vegas home prices
Las Vegas home prices grew fastest among major markets in February for the ninth straight month. But amid affordability concerns, the growth rate has slowed down. Southern Nevada prices in February were up 9.7% from a year earlier, according to the latest S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller index. The last time Las Vegas' price growth fell below 10% was in September 2017, S&P Dow Jones Indices reported.
Free Parking Coming To Wynn
Free parking will come to the Wynn and Encore resorts on May 1, 2019. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Founding Venetian employees talk about 20 years at the Strip resort
The Venetian, which opened May 3, 1999, is celebrating 20 years on the Las Vegas Strip. Seven original employees talk about opening the luxury resort and working there for two decades. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
THE LATEST
Lawsuit accuses Encore Boston Harbor of cheating gamblers

The suit by New York resident Richard Schuster says the Everett casino is paying out less for certain winning hands at blackjack and rounding down payouts from slot machines. It was filed Monday in Middlesex County Superior Court.