Wind River Hotel and Casino to lay off 100-120 workers in January; Economy and competition cited

The economic downturn in the energy industry and competition from horse racing machines has resulted in layoffs coming to the Wind River Hotel and Casino in the new year. General Manager Jim Conrad confirmed the layoffs to this morning, saying that between 100 and 120 employees will be impacted. Fremont County's largest employer will be altering hours at its Buffalo Restaurant at the main casino, but Conrad said there would be no closures. He said the layoffs will occur at each of the Northern Arapaho Tribes' three casinos, including the Little Wind at Ethete and the 789 Casino south of Riverton, and at the hotel attached to the main casino. The casino operations in Riverton and Ethete employs 760 workers. "I am meeting with all of my managers who can hire and fire, there are 25 of them, so the full extent of the layoffs I won't know until later next week," he said. "The layoffs will be effective on January 3rd. and it will involved between 100 and 120 people." "We have a regular turnover of some 10 people a week, so some people will fire themselves by not coming to work," he said. "For many of our people, this is the first job or the first job anyone in their family has held and coming to work every day for 40 hours a week is hard for them. And we've given them more than one chance." Conrad said he has been in contact with Wyoming Workforce Services to bring in representatives to help explain what the options will be for the laid off workers and how to get unemployment. "If we have jobs that open up, we'll go the laid-off list of already trained employees to fill those," he said. "We also have a few departments who are short some employees and we may transfer some to new duties." Conrad blamed the downturn in the economy, especially in oil and gas, and what he termed were the "illegal horse racing machines in Casper and Rock Springs," which he said had grabbed a share of his business. "I hate to do this, but I have no choice now. I should've done this earlier," he said. He said the casino had a better year than was expected last year because of the huge settlement monies, about $167-million, that flooded into the valley. "There is no settlement money this year and business is down. I think this year is worse than prior years," he said. He said the new Buffalo Restaurant will reduce its hours to evening service with full days on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, the busiest at the casino. "Our food area is not meeting expectations," he said. This is the first time the casino operation has contracted since gaming opened on the Reservation over a decade ago. #county10 #news