Wednesday was a long day for Atlantic City resident Michelle Olson.

With several hours to go before the Golden Nugget opened the doors for its emergency job fair, Olson claimed the first spot in line at 3 a.m. in the hope of landing a job as a front desk attendant.

As she watched the crowd grow from dozens to hundreds and beyond, she remained hopeful that she would land a position, saying she believed God was on her side.

The job fair kicked off at 10 a.m. Wednesday and drew 1,300 people to the Marina District casino, each seeking one of 50 jobs.

The casino, however, began turning job-seekers away Wednesday afternoon, saying it had been inundated by the overwhelming interest for a “handful” of positions. All applicants were encouraged to apply online.

The job fair scheduled for today will continue as planned, but a representative highlighted 1,500 jobs available at a new property in Lake Charles, La., rather than local positions.  

Golden Nugget Executive Vice President and General Manager Tom Pohlman initially reported that the casino was seeking additional employees due to a recent surge in business following the closing of Atlantic Club Casino Hotel in January.

Yet the message abruptly changed Wednesday night when Golden Nugget’s corporate office in Las Vegas issued a different statement, saying the casino had endured a difficult 2013 and had cut back to “bare minimum” staffing. The job fair was was held in anticipation of future staffing needs in the spring and summer season, according to the statement attributed to a Golden Nugget spokesperson.

“While our gaming revenue has been reported as slightly up in Atlantic City, the comparative increase in business is off a low base and not the reason for the job fair,” the statement read.

By the time the casino began interviews Wednesday, hundreds made up a massive line that circled around the casino’s fourth floor. Within 30 minutes, staff began extending the line down to the third floor and security stopped people from from entering the fourth floor out of turn.

“It’s a double-edged sword,” Pohlman said. “On the one hand, we’re glad to have people here. On the other, it shows how great the need is.”

The closing of Atlantic Club Casino Hotel last month left 1,600 people out of work, many of whom showed up at the Golden Nugget on Wednesday.

Candidates ranged from teenagers to seasoned veterans of the casino industry. Some dressed causally and came with groups of friends, while others came in suits carrying their resumes in yellow folders.

Among those in line was 60-year-old Jack Evanchik, of Millville, who has 21 years of experience in the casino industry but has been out of work for 14 months. His last job was as a supervisor in Caesars Atlantic City’s now-eliminated simulcast facility.

He said he was hopeful that he could find a supervisory job at the Golden Nugget, but conceded that he’d likely be interested in any job they had available.

“It’s tough trying to pay your bills when you don’t have work,” Evanchik said. “Hopefully, my resume will help.”

Exactly when the casino began turning away applicants wasn't clear.

William Phillips, of Absecon, a 28-year veteran of the casino industry, primarily as a room service waiter, said he and others were turned away from the Golden Nugget shortly after 11 a.m. and at the time were told they could return today.

“Tomorrow all the jobs will be taken. Everyone should have a chance,” Phillips said Wednesday. “They advertise that there’s this job fair and then you’re turned away and told you can’t even fill out an application. It’s a waste of time.”

William Dreyer, a 57-year-old who has held casino jobs as a valet attendant and security guard, said he wasn’t at all surprised by Wednesday’s turnout. Now retired, Dreyer said he was looking for some part-time work and hoped that his friendly demeanor and good customer service skills would help.

“People aren’t working. They certainly need these jobs,” he said.

Golden Nugget announced earlier this week that it would hold “emergency” job fairs Wednesday and today. At the time, Pohlman said the casino’s business began picking up about six weeks ago after the Atlantic Club Casino Hotel shut down. Golden Nugget has offered rewards-card upgrades to former Atlantic Club customers as well as loyalty card members from other area casinos, a move that Pohlman said has resulted in increased business.

Earlier this week, Pohlman said the casino was looking for 50 people who could start as soon as Friday, but on Wednesday he said the casino likely needed 50 dealers alone in addition to several other support staff positions, including front desk attendants, cocktail servers, valet attendants and others.

In its official statement Wednesday night, the casino said it saw the job fair as an opportunity to identify good candidates who would be willing to relocate to the newest Golden Nugget in Lake Charles, La. That property is expected to open at the end of 2014.

Contact Jennifer Bogdan:

609-272-7239

@ACPressJennifer on Twitter