As Encore Boston Harbor lobbies the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) to install automated drink dispensers in its back-of-house bar area, it is also vehemently disputing stories that 70 employees will be laid off as a result of using that new technology.
Encore appeared before the MGC on Thursday, Jan. 9, for a request to implement computerized drink dispensers at its bar area in the back of the house – a bar area that is not directly used by the public, but rather is utilized by the resort to fulfill drink orders from those actively playing on the gaming floor.
At the moment, cocktail servers gather orders from customers on the gaming floor, and then get those orders filled at the Central Bar Area in the back of the house. Several bartenders there, who are not interfacing with the public, make the drinks and then the servers deliver the drinks to customers. The proposed computerized system would eliminate those bartender positions and implement a faster drink operation, Encore said.
Reports late last week suggested that using those automated systems would put 70 people out of work.
Encore Spokesman Richard Krauss said it was the furthest thing from the truth.
“It has been inaccurately reported that 70 positions have been eliminated and/or replaced by automated beverage dispensers,” he said. “We are currently right sizing our business as we continue to make adjustments to our organization based both on customer feedback and how best to meet our business needs. Should any employee become displaced, we do everything we can to provide alternate job opportunities for them within our organization. Given the amount of related openings in other areas of the business, we cannot project the number of positions that will be impacted as a result of the automated beverage dispensers at this time.”
Krauss said the computerized dispensers would be four times faster than the current system, and they have had a number of customer complaints about drinks taking too long to arrive.
He said while some positions at the Central Bar Area might be phased out, that didn’t mean people are losing jobs at Encore. In fact, he said there several are bartender openings right now in the public-facing restaurants, which could be more lucrative due to larger tips from customers. The goal for anyone potentially displaced by the machines would be to place them in an open position as a bartender or some other need at the resort. He said that after such significant training and onboarding invested in each employee, the goal is never to have any of them be put out of a job involuntarily – as there are many opportunities still being filled in Encore.
The entire scenario is part of a larger re-positioning by the casino announced by CEO Matt Maddox on an investor call last fall. Maddox indicated at that time the Boston resort casino had likely over-hired during the lead-up to opening, and that there would need to be corrections in the workforce.
That happened already with the greeter positions at Encore, a new feature that the company had not utilized at any of its other resorts. As it turns out, Krauss said, the positions were not necessary and that new feature didn’t work out.
However, of the six greeter positions, at least four of them re-trained and are working in other positions at the resort, he said.
Councilor Michael McLaughlin, who represents Lower Broadway, said he was unhappy with the situation regarding hiring and layoffs at the resort. He said Encore should have known it would implement this kind of technology, and that he has been hearing about layoffs at the resort now for two months.
“The termination of position’s due to automated drink dispensers is a tragic leadership failure,” he said. “The Las Vegas team has been designing this building for seven years and failed to incorporate the basic technological advances in the design that would have avoided this completely. One position in my opinion is too many. These are real lives and families that will be impacted and that’s not okay in my eyes. When Wynn re-build the McDonald’s on Broadway in Everett, it was re-opened with the latest drink-dispensing technology but somehow Wynn Resorts missed this trend completely.”
He said he is calling on the MGC to reject Encore’s request to implement automatic drink dispensers, as he believes it will lead to Everett residents losing their jobs.
A lot of the employment data will become clearer this month, as a detailed annual report from the company is to be delivered to Mayor Carlo DeMaria this month as part of the Host Community Agreement (HCA). The HCA, under the permanent jobs category, states that Wynn shall provide the City an annual report in January each year, starting in 2020. The report is to include full- and part-time employment levels by Wynn at the beginning of the reporting period (in this case the opening date, June 23) and the end. It is also to give figures for the numbers of Everett residents employed at the resort during the period. The City can also require additional information to be included in the annual report, if it wishes.
Krauss said the report is being worked on right now, and nearly completed. He said they are doing all they can to attract Everett residents to the open positions in the resort, and there are more than 80 positions open this week, according to listings on the website.
“As part of our host community agreement, we ensure qualified Everett residents receive priority when applying for jobs at Encore Boston Harbor,” he said. “When reviewing qualified candidates for any open position, Everett residents are prioritized. We also send a weekly newsletter with open positions to Chief of Staff at Everett City Hall and staff a satellite Encore Boston Harbor recruitment office in Everett City Hall.”
He said, though there are ebbs and flows in the workforce, Encore employs 610 Everett residents right now, which is 14 percent of its active workforce. The only other municipality with a higher percentage is Boston, which makes up 16 percent of the workforce.
Krauss said there are some, however, who have left because they were terminated. He said Encore does not talk specifically about such things, but did say they have a progressive discipline policy at the resort.
“Regarding involuntary terminations, we have a progressive discipline policy that applies to all employees with non-egregious employee relations matters,” he said. “The progressive discipline policy applies equally across all employees, regardless of residency.”
The MGC has not yet decided on whether or not it will let Encore use the computerized drink machines.