LAUGHLIN — The 271 employees of the River Palms Resort Casino in Laughlin will be permanently laid off over a two-week period beginning Sept. 3, according to a federally-mandated notice of mass termination provided to the Laughlin Town Advisory Board, the Clark County Board of Commissioners and the Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation.

The River Palms, formerly owned by Columbia Properties Laughlin and CP Laughlin Realty, was purchased by Nevada Restaurant Services and Laughlin Hotel LLC on July 1 for $6.75 million cash. The sale contract provides for the lease back of the property to its current owners for no more than 90 days, ending Sept. 30.

“All hotel and casino operations will be shut down on or before the expiration of the lease,” Lance Millage, executive vice president and chief financial officer of Tropicana Entertainment, said in the July 1 document required by the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act. “The affected employees do not have bumping rights and are not represented by a union.

“However, the new owners, in their sole discretion, may choose to communicate with some or even a majority of the employees prior to the expiration of the lease to discuss future job opportunities,” added Millage.

Assuming the duties of general manager of the as-yet-to-be-named property is Steve Des Champs, who is currently working with Nevada Restaurant Services in the revamping of the Hacienda Hotel and Casino outside of Boulder City.

“We would like to invite all of (the River Palms employees) to a series of job fairs,” Des Champs told the Laughlin Nevada Times. At the fairs, anticipated to be held in late July and in August, individuals can apply for the positions they held with the River Palms or for higher-level jobs.

“What companies often find is staff people who are great employees but who have never had the opportunity to elevate to a management position,” Des Champs said and added that most if not all of the current management employees will be moving over to the Tropicana Laughlin, formerly the River Palms’ sister property.

Des Champs is not certain of the number of positions that will be available at the newly-purchased hotel and casino. Housekeeping duties at the River Palms were contracted out to another entity, but Nevada Restaurant Services will hire and manage those employees directly. “We’re not a real big fan of that type of arrangement,” said Des Champs. “We want people to be part of the family.”

The exact time frame of the shut down and the re-opening is dependent upon a couple of issues, the main one being the procurement of a gaming license. Des Champs told the Times that Nevada Restaurant Services - which owns the Dotty’s chain of taverns - anticipates meeting with the Nevada Gaming Commission in October.

Renovation of the property, including the main floor and the two lower levels, will take priority.

“Each one of those floors will undergo modest to significant levels of remodeling,” Des Champs said without giving specifics as to the construction plans. He anticipates the facility will be closed four to six weeks while work takes place and that a large number of the employees involved in the project will be staying at the property during the remodel. He estimates the new facility will re-open in early to mid-November.

“We’re the new kid on the block and we have a unique focus,” Des Champs said. “Our intent is to build on the local’s market. We want to grow the market and not take away from the other establishments. We hope we’re welcomed into the marketplace.”

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