Claims of union support backfire on 'clean-living' Las Vegas gaming group

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The Independent Online

Las Vegas Sands Inc (LVSI), one of the US gaming companies planning to build mega-casinos in the UK, made a major gaffe yesterday when it issued a statement claiming to have won union support for its plans.

Las Vegas Sands Inc (LVSI), one of the US gaming companies planning to build mega-casinos in the UK, made a major gaffe yesterday when it issued a statement claiming to have won union support for its plans.

Officials from the GMB union, which was said to have issued a "joint-statement" with LVSI pledging its endorsement of the company as a "socially responsible employer", said yesterday they had reached no such agreement with LVSI.

"If anything, going on what we have heard from other union members in the US, LVSI would not be our employer of choice," a GMB spokeswoman said. "From what our US colleagues have told us, they do not have employment practices that would be acceptable to us."

A delegation of casino workers from the US is touring the UK this week, and has urged the Government not to grant licenses to all the companies that are planning to launch. They have described LVSI as the "pariah" of the Las Vegas gaming industry for the way it treats its staff. Maggie Carlton, a Nevada state senator and a shop steward for the Unite Here union, said LVSI had a notorious reputation. "Casino jobs can be a very good career. But LVSI is one of the worst to work for. Staff get no guaranteed hours, no guaranteed vacations, and no guaranteed health care benefits," she said.

Glen Ardono, the political director of Unite, met the Culture Secretary, Tessa Jowell, this week.

GMB said it had been approached by a number of overseas casino groups trying to garner support in the face of growing opposition to plans to allow large Las Vegas-style casinos in the UK. The Government wants to allow large casinos with up to 1,250 high-prize slot machines, which has attracted US operators. But the Government is coming under increasing pressure to limit the number of developments. The overseas companies had hoped to get unions on-side with the promise of up to 2,000 jobs at each location.

Conflicting statements

"The GMB is reassured that Las Vegas Sands Inc maintains a reputation as a good employer and socially responsible company in Las Vegas and is confident that it will maintain that position in its developments in the UK."

(Issued by LVSI's public relations firm yesterday and billed as a 'joint statement'.) Later in the day, the GMB union responded:

"We have not reached any agreement with LVSI or issued any joint statements with it. From what we know of LVSI's employment practices from our colleagues in the US, LVSI would not be an acceptable employer to us."

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