LAS VEGAS -- The operators of 18 casinos here reached tentative agreements with Culinary Union Local 226, averting a threatened June 1 strike.

Meanwhile, the union offered 30-day, one-time extensions to 17 casinos that had not reached agreements, postponing the potential strike date for those properties, as well, according to Glen Arnodo, the union's political director.

Contracts with the 35 casinos were due to expire May 31.

At press time, nine of the 17 smaller properties had accepted the contract extension, Arnodo said. The union was awaiting word from the eight others, including the Sahara, the Riviera, and the Stratosphere.

Under the tentative agreements with the major Strip hotels, union employees -- who include housekeepers and food-service workers -- will receive a $3.24 hourly increase in wages and health-plan contributions over five years.

However, Gregory Kamer, an attorney who represents seven of the properties that haven't reached settlements, said the agreement made with the major hotels is too expensive for the smaller properties.

Arnodo said there could be "slight differences in wage rates" between smaller, downtown casinos and major Strip casinos if and when deals are reached, but added, "There won't be any inferior health plan" for downtown workers.

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