Las Vegas, the casino tourism mecca in the Nevada desert is seeing a wave of artificial intelligence (AI) robots replacing humans in tourism industry jobs.
Check-in kiosks have replaced people at the front desk of hotels. Text-bots now make restaurant recommendations instead of a concierge. Robots can serve food, and behind the bar, machines are pouring out drinks.
Automation and technology replacing jobs has long been a conversation in Nevada’s most populated city. Studies show that between 38% to 65% of jobs there could be automated by 2035.
With the use of artificial intelligence on the rise, the economy of this city –which relies on tourism and hospitality — is at an inflection point, as companies look to technology to reduce labor costs.
“Wherever the resort industry can replace their workers and not affect productivity, profits or the customer experience — wherever they can do that with artificial intelligence… they will,” said John Restrepo, principal at RCG Economics in Las Vegas.
“The question is, how do you factor in and how do you adapt your economic development strategy, your community strategy, your resiliency strategy to accommodate a world where certain jobs no longer exist?” he said.
Restrepo said he believes the city has to diversify its economy to be less reliant on tourism and hospitality.
“We need to move … to those occupations that are more highly skilled, that are not easily replaced by AI and that provide a greater level of balance and resilience so we’re not so hard-hit,” Restrepo said.
Unions in Las Vegas are closely watching the changes. The largest union in Nevada, the Culinary Union, represents 60,000 service and hospitality workers in Las Vegas and Reno. Later this year, it hopes to have a new negotiated contract that includes protections against AI replacing jobs.
“We had a huge fight about tech in our previous contract. We’re going to have the same fight this time around,” Ted Pappageorge, the secretary-treasurer of the union, told NPR.
In its last contract in 2018, the union pushed for companies to agree to a six-month warning for workers for new technology introduced in the workplace, as well as free training on how to use the new technology.
“How do our folks make sure that the jobs that remain, that we can work them? And that we’re not thrown out like an old shoe? We’re not going to stand for that,” Pappageorge said.
While the precise impact of AI on service work is not yet clear, the union is prepared to make AI an issue to strike over when it negotiates its new contract, Pappageorge said.
“We’d like to say we’re going to be able to get an agreement. But if we have to, we’re going to have a big fight and do whatever it takes, including a strike on technology,” he said.
Source: NPR News.