Halifax casino to lay off 100 workers and reduce hours in cost-cutting moves

Halifax – More than 100 people will lose their jobs at Casino Nova Scotia in Halifax in the coming weeks and the casino will start closing for six hours a day later this month, a spokesman for the casino’s owner said Tuesday.

Great Canadian Gaming Corp., based in Richmond, B.C., will cut 15 per cent of the roughly 800 full- and part-time workers, company spokesman Howard Blank said.

He said 100 to 120 positions will go.

„This isn’t something pleasant,“ said Blank, vice-president of media and entertainment. „This is something that has painfully been analyzed and will have to be executed appropriately with dignity and respect for our employees.“

The company will also take other steps to try to make the casino more profitable, Blank said. New hours in Halifax will be 10 a.m. to 4 a.m., rather than 24 hours a day.

There will also be 89 fewer slot machines and eight fewer game tables.

Blank said most of the changes in Nova Scotia will be in Halifax, though Sydney will also have fewer slots and tables and could lose a few people.

Great Canadian said last month that it was disappointed with the 2007 financial results for Halifax and Sydney, especially in the last three months of the year. Gaming revenue for the two casinos was down nine per cent, to CAD 10.6 million, in the fourth quarter, compared to the same period in 2006, while revenue for the entire year was down six per cent, to CAD 44.6 million, compared to the previous year.

Vincent Trudel, the company’s chief operating officer, told analysts during a conference call in March that the company would take steps between April and June to turn that around.

Blank said he expects the layoffs to come in that time frame, and the operating hours will change this month. He said a combination of factors led to the cuts. The casino business slowed due to a general drop in tourism, the strength of the Canadian dollar and the province’s smoking ban, he said.

Trudel last month also blamed the provincial government for anti-gaming ads.

A casino employee, who spoke on the condition that her name not be used, said managers told staff about the changes Monday. She said the new hours will start April 17.

The employee said there had been rumours of cuts for a couple of weeks. She said some of her colleagues believe Great Canadian is trying to make up for the big changes it made after buying the casinos in 2005, including a CAD 20-million facelift at the Halifax casino in 2006.