Less than a year after its grand opening complete with entertainers from Las Vegas, Sands Casino Resort in Bethlehem is laying off 80 employees.
The cuts, announced today, will be across the board, said Sands president Robert DeSalvio, but will impact the casino's food and beverage facilities - including four restaurants - the hardest. Food and beverage is the casino's largest department.
The 9 percent reduction brings the Sands' workforce to 780, down from its current 860, and nearly 200 less than when it opened on May 22, with 3,000 slot machines.
"It's based on business demand," DeSalvio said today just after 1 p.m. "It's fairly common for casinos and other businesses to go back through and see where you can run things more effectively."
The $743 million casino debuted nearly a year ago with Sheldon Adelson, Las Vegas Sands chief executive officer, and Gov. Rendell on stage, along with the famous Blue Man Group that performs regularly at the Venetian Resort Hotel casino on the Vegas Strip, also owned by Las Vegas Sands.
Sands had originally projected that the casino would bring in $465 million a year in gross slots revenue. Based on figures from the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, which regulates the state's gambling industry, the casino is expected to generate about $347 million in the first year, instead.
Perhaps more telling is the casino's revenue in the first 39 weeks of this fiscal year. Sands appears likely to bring in less than $250 million this year.
Although the Bethlehem casino faces in-state competition from two nearby casinos in the Poconos, as well as Atlantic City, DeSalvio said the numbers were more a reflection of "opening up at a very difficult economic time."
"We are not doing the original volume we expected," he said. "As the business gets more mature, you have to look at the operation and match the number of team members to biz volume."
Two bright spots, DeSalvio said, are the addition of 89 table games as early as July, and a hotel scheduled to open next to the casino in May 2011.
He said 400 workers will be needed to staff the table games, and an additional 100 for the new hotel. DeSalvio said those who have lost their jobs will have first consideration for the new openings.
"Hopefully, we will get most of them back to work very soon," he said. "We feel the business will grow with table games coming, and that growth could have a ripple effect throughout the property, including on our slots business and food and beverage."
Next month, groundbreaking is scheduled for the 300-room hotel, which will create about 350 construction jobs over the next 12 months.