Robots could kill many Las Vegas jobs

Elvis just started a new, somewhat boring job. When a guest at the Renaissance Hotel in Las Vegas needs a toothbrush ...

Posted: Jan 30, 2018 6:12 AM
Updated: Jan 30, 2018 6:12 AM

Elvis just started a new, somewhat boring job. When a guest at the Renaissance Hotel in Las Vegas needs a toothbrush or an extra towel, he brings it to their room.

Three-feet tall and covered in decorative stars, Elvis is a robot. And while it doesn't replace any human employees at the moment, it is a sign of what's next for Las Vegas.

Earlier this month, Las Vegas hosted CES -- one of the largest technology shows in the world. Self-driving cars, cleaning robots, and AI-powered systems offered a peek into the city's own automated future.

But Las Vegas is also the U.S. city most at risk for losing jobs to automation, according a study from the University of Redlands. In 20 years, about 65% of the city's jobs could be automated.

Most Las Vegas workers hold low-paid service positions such as cashier, office clerk and cleaning staff. They work in restaurants, hotels and offices. Their daily routines often involve repetitive tasks, which are ripe for automation.

For example, Las Vegas has approximately 39,000 retail salespeople. About 36,000 of those positions could be automated by 2035, according the study. Cashier, cook and game dealer jobs could be wiped out almost entirely.

Related: Inside Amazon Go: the store of the future

What will happen when the jobs in Las Vegas are gone?

"We expect an incredible amount of increase in income inequality," said Professor Johannes Moenius, who worked on the University of Redlands study. "We'll likely have an over supply of people without education. Some of them we can train and some we can't ... They'll have to go into early retirement."

Black and Hispanic workers are more at risk to lose their jobs to automation than white employees, according to Moenius. Because women are more likely to work in the types of jobs at risk of automation, they will be disproportionately affected.

The biggest determining factor will be education. People with a doctoral degree only have a 13% chance of being replaced by robots and AI, while people with only a high school degree have a 74% chance, according to the study.

"We're not Luddites. You're not going to stop technology," said D. Taylor, president of the national Unite Here union and former head of the Las Vegas culinary union.

Instead, Taylor is focused negotiating contracts to include training that helps workers transition to different jobs, and severance with health and retirement benefits if people lose their careers to automation.

"I think this is a new industrial revolution that certainly, on public policy, hasn't been thought out enough," said Taylor.

Retraining takes time. Instead of waiting for people to lose their jobs, cities and business may need to invest in retraining now and come up with plans for people who can't make the transition, like older employees.

The robot revolution might be closer than many in Las Vegas realize. According to Moenius, the real impact will hit the city in five to 10 years.

Related: 17 cool gadget that tease the future from CES

Automation is already taking jobs, but not enough to have any real impact on employment numbers. McDonald's and other food chains have kiosks for ordering. Silicon Valley company Knightscope makes robots that replace security guards (with mixed results). Savioke, the maker of Elvis, has its Relay robots in hotels across the country. Amazon just opened its first cashier-less grocery store.

Las Vegas has grappled with similar issues before, long before anyone imagined cars could drive themselves. Back when slot machines only took coins, people roamed casino floors making change. Relatively simple technology, from poker machines to ATMs, have replaced various gaming jobs over the years.

Even if locals do end up struggling to find work, the city will likely carry on as a tourist attraction for outsiders who have jobs and can afford vacations.

"Vegas will still be Vegas and what characterizes Vegas will still be the same," said Moenius. "You will see fewer people face-to-face in the service sector, but Cirque du Soleil will still be there."

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 666516

Reported Deaths: 12726
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion912711659
Lake48687890
Allen36102644
Hamilton32445398
St. Joseph30306514
Elkhart25510420
Vanderburgh21326382
Tippecanoe20220205
Johnson16466363
Porter16068281
Hendricks15944302
Clark12060182
Madison11799323
Vigo11685234
Monroe10419164
Delaware9891179
LaPorte9831199
Howard9112201
Kosciusko8597111
Bartholomew7522147
Hancock7462134
Warrick7451153
Floyd7263173
Wayne6661192
Grant6462158
Boone616691
Morgan6129128
Dubois5936112
Dearborn551270
Cass5485100
Marshall5451105
Henry542995
Noble513178
Jackson465567
Shelby463391
Lawrence4195113
Gibson405185
Harrison403265
Clinton397553
Montgomery391684
DeKalb387478
Miami358263
Knox357885
Whitley351238
Huntington349477
Steuben340055
Putnam333960
Wabash333176
Ripley327962
Adams325449
Jasper319143
White298152
Jefferson296274
Daviess285996
Fayette272756
Decatur271688
Greene262680
Posey261432
Wells259075
Scott251850
LaGrange242470
Clay241644
Randolph226077
Spencer219430
Jennings216744
Washington213027
Sullivan203739
Fountain202842
Starke189951
Owen183654
Fulton179737
Jay178728
Carroll176919
Perry174036
Orange171451
Rush165622
Vermillion161543
Franklin159935
Tipton149541
Parke140216
Pike128533
Blackford120627
Pulaski107644
Newton96832
Brown95340
Benton92413
Crawford92213
Martin80314
Warren75914
Switzerland7558
Union67510
Ohio54211
Unassigned0427

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 977736

Reported Deaths: 17501
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1129551251
Cuyahoga968561881
Hamilton738821067
Montgomery47506923
Summit40668831
Butler35827531
Lucas35779720
Stark29581826
Warren22574275
Lorain22190424
Mahoning19578551
Lake18545332
Clermont18519205
Delaware16597121
Licking15089194
Fairfield14644188
Trumbull14423424
Greene13659221
Medina13517237
Clark12376256
Wood11656170
Portage11127172
Allen10820216
Richland10372188
Miami10059194
Muskingum8238117
Columbiana8168210
Pickaway8094111
Tuscarawas8075232
Marion8020127
Wayne7933199
Erie6961146
Ross6173132
Geauga6114142
Hancock6030121
Scioto600488
Ashtabula5998154
Lawrence527586
Union516341
Darke5052116
Belmont4999137
Huron4859108
Jefferson4836137
Sandusky4798112
Washington474396
Seneca4734111
Athens466149
Mercer459781
Auglaize456582
Shelby442679
Knox4054105
Putnam400593
Madison395455
Fulton383161
Ashland382683
Brown374852
Defiance373788
Crawford360098
Logan357373
Preble353987
Clinton342455
Highland328451
Ottawa325371
Williams303568
Jackson291846
Champaign290949
Guernsey288845
Perry271148
Fayette269943
Morrow261437
Henry247861
Hardin247359
Holmes244497
Coshocton240756
Van Wert230157
Gallia223938
Adams218239
Pike217228
Wyandot212450
Hocking195054
Carroll182143
Paulding161034
Meigs136031
Noble129233
Monroe117237
Morgan102120
Harrison100731
Vinton76613
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Clear
32° wxIcon
Hi: 46° Lo: 18°
Feels Like: 26°
Angola
Clear
28° wxIcon
Hi: 44° Lo: 19°
Feels Like: 21°
Huntington
Clear
32° wxIcon
Hi: 47° Lo: 20°
Feels Like: 32°
Fort Wayne
Clear
32° wxIcon
Hi: 46° Lo: 21°
Feels Like: 26°
Lima
Partly Cloudy
29° wxIcon
Hi: 45° Lo: 20°
Feels Like: 21°
Sunny Sunday
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events