When Encore Boston, Boston’s first casino resort which opened last June, it was met with tremendous fanfare and anticipation. The pre-opening projections were high, estimated at $800 million, but a short seven months later, the excitement wore off.
Because the casino didn’t hit their lofty protections, and blames soft revenue from slot machines, they had to come up with ways to cut business costs and help round out their bottom line. One of the ways they did this? Automating service jobs, essentially using machines to replace some 70 non-union workers.
Encore Workers Face Unpredicted Cuts
Around 70 bartenders, apprentices and casino workers, namely bartenders working ‘Back of the House’ service bars, hidden from customers, were told they were being cut at mandatory meetings. What were they told they would be replaced by? Dispensary drink machines that cocktail servers would be able to operate on their own “at the push of a button.”
The news came suddenly, with workers being told that cuts would go into effect on January 17th. For the affected workers, Boston Encore held a job fair at the Everett casino in an attempt to help alleviate some of the shock caused by the new lack of job security, although employees reported feeling there were not enough full-time or comparable jobs for everyone. As a Wynn spokesperson wrote in an email:
“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 may be impacted as a result of the automated beverage dispensers at this time.”
In a statement to Boston 25 News, Encore Boston said:
“The addition of the drink dispensers allows us the opportunity to significantly improve both the speed of service and provide a better guest experience. These dispensers are not unique to Encore.”
MGM Resorts: First to Use New Bartending Technology
It turns out, the MGM Springfield casino in Western Massachusetts pioneered the digital bartending movement. They’ve been using the automatic drink dispensing technology since opening in 2018. Springfield’s parent company, MGM Resorts International, has also began experimenting with the technology across Las Vegas properties as well. The gaming industry giant plans to install the same machines in Las Vegas Casinos, in an effort to cut $100 million in U.S. payroll costs, over the next two years.
MGM Resorts International Director of Corporate Media Relations Brian Ahern, said this of the new job-replacing technology:
“These technologies are an example of our work to drive innovation that enhances customer satisfaction and support the most important factor in personalized guest service: our employees.”
According to Ahern, these machines are essentially the “smarter cousin” of the automated soda dispensers used in fast-food drive-thrus, and have the ability to mix thousands of drinks.
The Future of Robot Bartenders: Is It a Safe Bet?
Talk about getting your drinks served with a twist. While job security for front-of-house bartenders who more closely interact with guests remain in the clear, it’s hard to predict the impact these automated drink dispensers will have on the hospitality industry as whole. While the intent for reduced casino costs, better drink efficiency, and guest experience has been spoken on heavily, the plan isn’t a sure bet just yet. We’ll have to wait and see once robot bartenders start being used in full-blown operation across properties in the US.