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Lady Luck Casino at Nemacolin lays off 15 percent of workforce

| Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2013, 12:24 a.m.

Ponying up at least $10 for the opportunity to play the slots at the state's newest resort casino has turned out to be too much of a gamble for some would-be players, resulting in layoffs at the Fayette County gaming facility, according to a casino spokeswoman.

“We have received high marks from our customers related to their experience at Lady Luck Nemacolin,” said Jill Alexander, Isle of Capri spokeswoman, in a prepared statement. “However, customers have been resistant to the access plan.”

Nemacolin Woodlands Resort holds a Category 3 resort gaming license, meaning patrons at Lady Luck are required to spend at least $10 on resort amenities before they are allowed into the casino, per state law governing its special license.

The $10 minimum is proving to be an obstacle to some potential casino visitors, resulting in less-than-anticipated business, Alexander said.

As a result, the casino eliminated an unspecified number of positions as it moves into “the slow winter season,” she said.

Alexander said 15 percent of the casino staff was laid off, but she declined to specify the number of employees.

In July, Alexander said the casino hired about 500 workers for its debut. A 15 percent reduction would mean a cut of 75 employees.

Richard McGarvey, a spokesman with the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, said layoffs in a casino's first year are not unusual.

“Normally, when a casino opens up, they've opened with more staff than they find that they need,” McGarvey said. “With new facilities, we've seen reductions, usually in the first year, so that's not terribly unusual to happen.”

The $60 million casino at the upscale resort in Farmington was the 12th casino to open in Pennsylvania. A partnership between Nemacolin Woodlands and Isle of Capri, it features 600 slot machines, 28 table games, a restaurant and a lounge.

The resort has not laid off any employees, according to Jeff Nobers, resort spokesman. The resort hired at least 35 people to handle the “Nemacolin Experience” program, which Nobers said is unaffected by the casino layoffs.

“We still need them,” Nobers said. “You have to staff that for your overnight guests.”

Nemacolin created the “Nemacolin Experience” program as part of its access plan for the casino. Under the program, resort patrons who buy a $45 Nemacolin Experience membership have unlimited access to the casino for 12 months for themselves and a guest. In addition, members are eligible for discounts at the resort's other amenities.

Alexander declined comment on Isle of Capri's revenue projections for Lady Luck Nemacolin, but in a 2010 hearing before the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, a consulting expert for the casino projected $66.8 million in annual revenues.

Of the $66.8 million, Anthony Mumphrey of TMG Consulting testified that by its third year, $56.3 million would be generated through slots and $10.5 million through table games, according to the transcript.

According to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, in the 10 weeks since it opened, Lady Luck has reported a total of about $5 million in gross terminal revenues from slots play. During that time, gamblers wagered $64 million on slots and the casino paid out $58 million.

By comparison, Valley Forge, a resort casino located outside Philadelphia, reported $12.6 million in gross terminal revenues since the start of the fiscal year on July 1, with $153 million in slots wagers and $138 million in payouts. Nemacolin and Valley Forge each have 600 slot machines.

Historically, Pennsylvania casinos typically require several years' operation before they meet revenue projections, McGarvey said.

“It usually takes a while for customers to know they are there,” he said. “Past practice shows revenues increase in the first and second years before leveling out.”

Liz Zemba is a reporter for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-601-2166 or lzemba@tribweb.com.

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