As the summer tourist season fast approaches, Atlantic City’s nine casinos are working to fill thousands of open job positions.
According to the Press of Atlantic City, as of February an employment report from the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) showed that the resort casinos still have not returned to pre-pandemic employment levels.
“Persisting low staffing levels coupled with the anticipation of a strong summer season will present a particular challenge for hiring managers as they seek to fill gaps with seasonal staff,” said Jane Bokunewicz, director of the Lloyd D. Levenson Institute of Gaming, Hospitality and Tourism at Stockton University, which studies the Atlantic City casino industry. “This might be an even greater challenge than usual given that the war in Ukraine and lingering pandemic concerns could impact the return of some foreign workers using the J-1 visa program.”
Joe Lupo, president of both the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Atlantic City and the Casino Association of New Jersey, told the Press there are 2,000 full- and part-time casino jobs open in the city. Properties are holding job fairs to bring in candidates, and a new Stockton summer internship program hopes to add another wave of potential employees.
The Stockton Atlantic City Summer Experience allows students to live on the school’s city campus on the Boardwalk for free during the summer. They work for one of the premiere resort businesses, earn wages and gain valuable job experience. Also students take a four-credit course on workforce readiness, including mentoring sessions.
“Our provost, Leamor Kahanov, and I envisioned this first summer pilot program to attract 40 students for the initial cohort for the program,” said Brian K. Jackson, chief operating officer of Stockton’s Atlantic City campus. “As of today, we have 622 Stockton students complete the interest form to participate in the program.”
The program offers positions in various departments, including IT, finance, marketing and human resources. Each position comes with a set of criteria associated with the major.
“We meet individually with each of the partners to present to them our vision for the program, and we got feedback from them as well,” Jackson said. “We encouraged them to open up opportunities that (are) front face and behind-the-scenes positions; those are critically important to the operation. They have been very generous about offering those jobs.”
The program is expected to be a positive for the industry, said Bob Ellis, vice president of human resources at Hard Rock. Last week, the property had a mixer for about 100 Stockton students associated with the program. So far, Hard Rock has hired 24 Stockton students for the program.
“When I was younger I never thought of this industry,” Ellis said. “Having the students come here, it exposes them to the business and could attract them to the business.”
If casinos are unable to fill their open positions, they may have to limit capacities on restaurants and over amenities in the peak tourism season.
“Coming out of Covid, especially last year after the restrictions were lifted, the workforce supply just has not been available,” Lupo said. “It’s been difficult for all of us to find enough people. I certainly know after meeting with everyone last week that every property is hiring.”
“Gaming is facing the same labor issues that we see across the broader economy,” said Casey Clark, senior vice president of the American Gaming Association. “In our recent CEO survey, the labor shortage is a top concern across the country.
“Competition for talent is a huge impediment for growth, and we’re also experiencing an expansion of gaming with customer demand increasing,” he said. “Those things are problematic when they happen together.”
According to the Associated Press, things are tough all over, including in Las Vegas. Last month, an economic development official said more than 40,000 jobs have gone unfilled since the state’s casinos reopened after a temporary closure in 2020.
“Work is available whether you are a first-time job seeker, changing fields, newly relocated to the area or retired and wish to return to work,” said Wanda Gispert, a vice president with MGM Resorts.
Across the country, about 1.65 million workers wqere employed in the gambling, amusement and recreation sectors of the U.S. economy in March, representing about 91 percent of the pre-pandemic workforce, Clark said.
Shamika Townsend, a newly hired casino dealer in Atlantic City, told the Press she was glad that a number of jobs were available, and that she was hired. “I wanted to move up and improve my situation,” she said. “These places have to compete with everybody else for workers now, and there’s money to be had.”