If you want a job in a casino, the odds are on your side


ATLANTIC CITY, NJ (AP) — As a casino dealer, Shamikah Townsend knows when the odds are in her favor.

And they definitely are right now.

While working at a casino in Atlantic City last year, she went to a job fair hosted by someone else and was surprised at how in demand she was immediately when the recruiter called. wanted to hire him as a craps dealer.

“She said, ‘I’ll pay you to move to Florida in two weeks,'” Townsend said. “I didn’t know craps, so I had to be honest and tell him, but I went out and learned it.”

Townsend moved on Monday, getting hired on the spot at a job fair hosted by the Ocean Casino Resort in Atlantic City.

Townsend is part of a big hiring wave taking place in casinos across the country as gambling halls compete to add staff while recovering from the coronavirus pandemic that has chased customers and dragged staff reductions.

But casinos are just one of many industries struggling to recruit new workers, and they find themselves competing not only for casino workers, but also for people with experience in the hospitality industries. , catering and tourism, to name a few.

“Gaming faces the same labor issues that we see in the broader economy,” said Casey Clark, senior vice president of the American Gaming Association, the national trade group for the casino industry. “In our recent survey of CEOs, labor shortages are a top concern across the country.

“Competition for talent is a huge impediment to growth, and we’re also seeing expansion in the game with increasing customer demand,” he said. “These things are problematic when they happen together.”

This has led to innovative tactics, including the use of virtual reality goggles at select MGM Resorts International job fairs to allow applicants to experience what the job will be like before signing on the dotted line.

Atlantic City casinos are also talking with state government agencies about funding new transit options to get people to casino jobs from more distant locations. One possibility: Something like the contract Borgata had with a transit agency in 2008 for a daily shuttle between its Atlantic City casino and Camden — a one-hour ride reaching clear across the state.

Nationally, there were about 1.65 million workers employed in the gambling, entertainment and recreation sectors of the U.S. economy in March, accounting for about 91% of the workforce. pre-pandemic work, Clark said. The AGA said it did not have a figure for employment in casinos alone.

Joe Lupo, president of Atlantic City’s Hard Rock Casino, is also president of the Casino Association of New Jersey. He estimates there are currently 2,000 full-time and part-time casino jobs in Atlantic City, where the overall workforce of 22,000 is down from 49,000 in 2003.

“Coming out of COVID, especially last year, after restrictions were lifted, the labor supply just wasn’t available,” he said. “It has been difficult for all of us to find enough people. I certainly know after meeting with everyone last week that every property is hiring.

This has very practical effects in resort casinos, which might not be able to open all of their hotel rooms, or open all of the craps or roulette tables they have. Restaurants that served 700 tables a night may only be able to serve 300, executives said.

As in other sectors, workers reap the benefits of changing jobs or taking a new one after being unemployed for a period of time. Casinos are increasing wages and benefits and offering to train workers without the kind of experience that was once needed just to get your foot in the door for an interview.

“Everyone is looking to hire the same person,” said Bill Callahan, general manager of Ocean Casino in Atlantic City. “We always need people.

In some departments, “people who made $14 an hour a year ago might be making $16 or $17 now,” Callahan said.

Ocean is launching an internal training program to teach people how to become resellers, something most candidates had to learn on their own before, Callahan added.

Morongo Casino in Cabazon, Calif., has held regular job fairs since December and has at least four more scheduled this month.

In North Carolina, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians said last month it needed nearly 900 additional workers for its two casinos in the state. Tribal leaders plan to recruit workers from other countries and house them in dormitories.

And in West Virginia, racetrack casinos told state regulators last month that a worker shortage was preventing them from operating at full capacity for the third straight year.

Townsend, the newly hired dealer in Atlantic City, says the circumstances are coming together nicely for her.

“I wanted to move up and improve my situation,” she said. “These places now have to compete with everyone else for workers, and there’s money to be made.”


Follow Wayne Parry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/WayneParryAC

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