The upcoming opening of two vacant casinos seems to indicate that Atlantic City is the latest sign the town is turning the corner.
The revival of the former Revel/TEN and Trump Taj Mahal properties will create around 6,000 jobs for the struggling New Jersey economy. And new chatter indicates that the Showboat may return to its gambling roots in the near future, too.
As the grand re-openings approach, city officials have expressed some concern about the number of available workers. Does the area still have enough people to fill those jobs? Can it attract some from elsewhere?
According to a recent report from the Press of Atlantic City, it’s going to be tough.
Atlantic City employment numbers
Gaming records show that AC casinos currently employ about 22,000 workers. That’s down from an all-time high of about 50,000.
The decrease stems from the closure of five of the city’s 12 casinos in recent years. At least 11,000 people lost their jobs as a result. But at least two (and possibly three) of those casinos are going to need to build a new workforce this year.
The former Taj Mahal will reopen this summer as Hard Rock Atlantic City, creating more than 3,000 new jobs on its own. Ocean Resort Casino, formerly Revel and TEN, is eying up the same window for its reopening. It’s expected to employ a similar workforce.
That means the city is going to have to fill about 6,000 new jobs this summer, at a minimum. And there is some concern about the feasibility. Many of the folks who used to work at the city’s vacant properties have since moved on to other cities or other lines of work.
Where will new AC casinos find employees?
The new properties will try to hire from within the industry where possible. The Showboat may have some existing staff that could transition over to the gaming side of operations, but Hard Rock and the ORC will have to start from the ground up.
Hard Rock is already hosting job fairs in advance of a summer opening. And former Taj employees will have the first right of refusal for its vacant positions. The company held two events that were closer to pep rallies in January, reserved only for former Taj employees. Almost 90 percent of the 1,600 invited to apply did so.
Hard Rock’s career page also lists dozens of jobs available to the public. Positions range from high-level department heads, like the executive chef, right down to line cooks and cocktail servers. The property needs housekeepers and maintenance workers, hotel and parking staff, lifeguards, butchers, bakers and candlestick makers. Well, maybe not those last three.
The Ocean has also started its hiring process.
Some of the required positions are pretty easy to fill in any market. Everybody cooks or waits tables at one point or another. But there are a lot of crucial gaming roles to be filled, too. Security and surveillance staff are the kinds of folks you don’t just filter out of the classified ads.
Although gaming operations are of the utmost importance from a logistical standpoint, the opposite is true from the guests’ perspective. Customer service is what sets a property apart.
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Second first impressions are everything
Impeccable attention to customers is a big reason Las Vegas became the gambling capital of the world. A blackjack game is the same no matter if it’s held in Monte Carlo the city or the Monte Carlo the Vegas casino. But the way the staff interacts with the guests and the way the property caters to gamblers makes all the difference for repeat traffic.
The Ocean, in particular, is going to have to impress. The resort is the tallest and most expensive in Atlantic City, costing more than $2 billion to construct. Previous owner Glenn Straub had a reputation as being something difficult to work with.
In order to turn a profit, the Ocean is going to have to rebuild its image with the public. And in order to that, it needs to attract an elite workforce.
The Taj, on the other hand, was already a beloved property in its glory days. Despite a poor relationship with previous owner Carl Icahn, the staff seems to have fond memories, too. Accounts from the hiring events reveal that some Taj employees will abandon interim jobs elsewhere to return to Atlantic City.
Hard Rock’s president, Matt Harkness, knows that his brand has a rock-star image to maintain as it moves into the AC Boardwalk.
“We’re looking for people who have a personality that the guests are going to find appealing in terms of being able to work with them on their needs,” Harkness told Press of AC, “somebody that’s going to amplify the experience of the guests.”
Harkness cited the “institutional knowledge” of former employees as a desirable trait.