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MGM Resorts to lay off majority of entertainment staff

Updated July 28, 2020 - 11:00 am

The message started with a reference to “these unprecedented times.” Believe it.

MGM Resorts International, an industry leader in Las Vegas Strip entertainment, notified a large majority of its entertainment and sports division employees Monday that they will be laid off effective Aug. 31.

Those employees had been furloughed, still receiving benefits, through the end of August. Those benefits halt Sept. 1.

The company says it plans to reopen its entertainment and sports venues when it is safe and informed those laid off they hoped to call back as many as possible. Across the company, some 63,000 MGM Resorts employees had been informed in May that they would be furloughed until Aug. 31, with callbacks depending on suppressing COVID-19’s impact in the market.

The announcement complies with the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN Act), which ensures employees have advance notice before significant layoffs so they have time to find work elsewhere.

In a statement, MGM Resorts International Director of Media Relations Brian Ahern said, “Given that it is unlikely that concerts and other entertainment events will be returning to Las Vegas in the next month, it has unfortunately impacted the employees who support those shows. We’ve pledged to be as transparent and supportive as possible with employees and are working to reduce the impact and help them moving forward.

“We’re continuing to coordinate with public officials and look forward to the time when we can bring back employees to support our entertainment offerings and relaunch entertainment for our guests.”

The company has declined to specify how many employees have been affected by the notice. Those affected are hotel entertainment directors, venue managers and ushers.

Among the more noteworthy employees affected is booking manager Stephanie Sanchez, who was in charge of all non-ticketed entertainment throughout the company. Sanchez has a history with MGM Resorts dating to her days as a performer, including a nine-year run as the singer in “Fantasy” at Luxor ending in 2009.

In May, the company cut several upper-level executives, including longtime officials in its entertainment division.

Pre-Sisolak notification

The staffers affected were notified Monday in an email from MGM Resorts President of Entertainment and Sports George Kliavkoff. The senior exec’s announcement arrived just hours before Gov. Steve Sisolak announced a 5 p.m. news conference to update the state’s COVID-19 response.

Kliavkoff’s note led with, “I hope that this letter finds you and your loved ones safe and healthy during these unprecedented times. I am reaching out to you today to update you on the timing of restarting our entertainment programming.”

Kliavkoff went on to say that since the March shutdown of hotel-casinos, company execs “were hopeful our closure would be brief.” But conditions have forced the company to cut costs, and state law limits gatherings to 50 people, along with physical- distancing policies.

Kliavkoff added that, “We remain committed to reopening all of our entertainment venues when it’s safe to do so and our plan is to call back as many of our division’s employees as possible, as quickly as we can. The decision about when to reinstate entertainment at our properties will continue to be drive by health and safety mandates and guidelines established by government agencies and by business demand.”

Kliavkoff was unavailable for further comment Monday.

The announcement also says employees can seek support for everyday expenses, such as rent, mortgage, groceries and utilities, through the $14 million employee Emergency Grant Fund. Those laid off are eligible to request grants through Nov. 29. MGM Resorts has distributed more than $11 million in grant payments since the COVID shutdown.

Acts still sidelined

MGM Resorts stages such headliners and shows as David Copperfield and Jabbawockeez at the MGM Grand; Shin Lim and Boyz II Men at The Mirage; Blue Man Group, Carrot Top and “Fantasy” at Luxor; and “Tournament of Kings,” Hans Klok, Thunder From Down Under, and the “Australian Bee Gees Show” at Excalibur.

The company also operates T-Mobile Arena, Park Theater at Park MGM, MGM Grand Garden, Mandalay Bay Events Center and Mandalay Bay Beach, and Brad Garrett’s Comedy Club at MGM Grand. House of Blues at Mandalay Bay is owned by Live Nation; its employees are not affected by Monday’s directive.

Prior to Kliavkoff’s email, tickets to most of those shows and venues had been reset to Sept. 1.

“The priority for MGM is, they want us back onstage, functioning again,” said “Fantasy” producer Anita Mann, whose show celebrated its 20th anniversary at Luxor in October. “Every show, down the line, is on hold at MGM. We just want everyone to stay healthy, stay in shape, do whatever you can to keep our brand out there and stay positive.

“I’m not in denial, but we will get though this. We have to get through it.”

MGM Resorts has been staging live entertainment at Mayfair Supper Club and Petrossian Bar and Lounge at the Bellagio, and Bar at Times Square at New York-New York. Those venues are within the state’s public-gathering guidelines, and also offer food.

MGM Resorts is also the primary partner of Cirque du Soleil in Las Vegas, with five residency productions currently on hold. Cirque has sought bankruptcy protection in court in Quebec and does plan to return its shows to the Strip on an unspecified timeline.

John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His PodKats! podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

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