They may be the three most important words in Atlantic City: “We are hiring.”
Rick Mazer, general manager of Harrah’s Resort, is shouting them from the rooftops.
Caesars Entertainment, corporate parent to Harrah’s, has 355 openings across its three Atlantic City casino-hotels. More than 150 are for full-time positions with benefits, including health insurance.
“Entry-level positions. Management positions. Full-time positions. Part-time positions. It runs the whole gamut,” Mazer said Wednesday. Then there are 120 temporary dealer jobs needed for the World Series of Poker in March. And summer jobs will be advertised in the next four to six weeks.
Atlantic City’s casinos won slightly less than $2.6 billion from gamblers last year, meaning…
Caesars Entertainment needs good people “more than ever,” Mazer said.
Where are they?
Hilda Daly, a talent acquisition manager for the company, has been trying to fill the openings. There’s a dearth of applicants, though.
“There’s times when we struggle just to find the candidates,” she sighed Wednesday. “When we would have job fairs years ago, we would have lines, and that’s not there anymore.”
It’s a situation that belies employment statistics in Atlantic City, which saw more than 6,500 jobs evaporate when four casinos closed in 2014. Atlantic County’s 7.9 percent unemployment rate in November was well above the national rate of 5 percent.
Michael Busler, a finance professor at Stockton University, said Caesars’ apparent inability to fill hundreds of positions “sounds very perplexing.”
One possible explanation is that workers are taking jobs in hospitality markets that appear more stable than Atlantic City.
There’s a consensus among Wall Street analysts that the town, where gambling revenue has halved since peaking in 2006, could see more casinos close, particularly if North Jersey casinos are legalized. Meanwhile, Pennsylvania saw record gambling revenue in 2015 and is planning another casino for greater Philadelphia.
“Let’s put ourselves in the shoes of workers. You’re working in Atlantic City for years, and all of a sudden, abruptly, the market changes,” Busler said. “If it were me, I wouldn’t mind driving an hour for a job I know is good and likely to be there.”
Deb Figart, a labor economist at Stockton who co-authored the definitive book on the Atlantic City casino work force, called that a credible theory that could at least partially explain the unfilled positions. But, she said, “Maybe there is no clear answer. Maybe it’s idiosyncratic.”
Mazer, of Harrah’s, is still trying to make sense of the situation.
“I scratch my head,” he said, “as I read about and hear about folks ... commuting to Maryland and Valley Forge (Pennsylvania), and these long distances for jobs that I have open right here.”
Entry-level housekeeping and linen attendant jobs. Management positions of all stripes. Supervisory roles. Opportunities for mechanics and chefs.
“I’m not sure why there is this perception that there are no jobs available in Atlantic City, or in casinos, or in the service industry, because it’s just not true.”
Soon a new saloon will open at Bally’s Wild Wild West.
For that new venue alone, “There’s 12 bartender positions open,” he says, his voice straining a bit with incredulity. “Those are really good jobs in this town.”