Massachusetts has never seen a hiring spree like this: roughly 5,000 employees brought on board for one location within a matter of months. But will it be enough?
Wynn Resorts swung open the doors to its massive Encore Boston Harbor casino and hotel complex in Everett, with gambling starting for the first time on Monday, on an invite-only basis, and continuing through Friday. For now, the house proceeds go to nonprofits. Consider this a test run. The casino opens to the public on Sunday.
The Nevada-based company wants to fill 5,800 positions, and it’s a safe bet they won’t all be taken by opening day.
Jacqui Krum, the casino’s general counsel, says Wynn has hired about 4,900 people. That’s about 400 positions short of where it wanted to be at this point, she says. The company still expects to get to 5,800 by the end of the summer. (She notes that hundreds more prospects are still going through background checks.)
Wynn has aggressively recruited minorities and women as part of this spree, to mixed success so far. It told gaming regulators last week that 51 percent of the hires so far are minorities, easily exceeding the company’s 40 percent goal. But Wynn had less luck with women: About 44 percent of the casino employees are women, falling short of the 50 percent threshold spelled out in the casino’s diversity plan.
Krum says several departments, such as security and dealers, historically attract more men than women. Krum says she has insisted that managers make hiring more women a priority, and remains hopeful about getting to the 50-50 gender split. She says it’s important for the casino’s giant workforce to reflect the communities around it.
To some extent, Wynn is hampered by an unusually low unemployment rate. The local job market hasn’t been this strong since 2000, before the dot-com bubble burst. Krum concedes that some prospects were scared away by the previous uncertainty around the casino opening — caused by rumors that it could be sold, and the now-resolved state investigation into sexual misconduct claims against ousted chief executive Steve Wynn.
Hiring hasn’t always gone according to plan at the state’s first two casinos, either. MGM Springfield also had a goal of a 50-50 gender split. But women represent only 44 percent of the new casino’s employees – the same as Encore Boston Harbor. Plainridge Park Casino in Plainville made it to 50 percent on gender, but fell considerably short on a local hiring promise. The Penn National casino originally pledged to hire 90 percent of its workers from Plainville and nearby towns, but couldn’t pull it off. As a result, the state Gaming Commission recently approved a change in the plan, scaling back that goal to 35 percent.
Wynn Resorts has gone beyond the traditional ads and job fairs. One crucial pipeline-builder: a new dealer course at Cambridge College in Boston. About 300 dealers at Wynn have gone through the course, casino manager George Magee says. Wynn has also tried to recruit from other casinos in New England, by offering competitive salaries (though the higher cost of living in Greater Boston compared with, say, Springfield or Eastern Connecticut, can hurt). So far, about 850 dealers are on board, and Magee says he wants 1,100 by the end of the summer. For now, he says many dealers will work overtime, likely six days a week, to make up the difference.
Wynn has also engaged the area’s community colleges and nonprofits, such as the New England Center for Arts & Technology’s culinary training program. The center specializes in helping people with criminal records or a history of substance abuse. Executive director Josephine Cuzzi says Wynn has hired 35 center students to be cooks, nearly all of them minorities.
As long as the casinos make good faith efforts to meeting their hiring goals, a gaming commission penalty seems unlikely.
But it is in Wynn’s best interest to push for diversity. After all, when you are trying to hire 5,800 people in a short period of time, you probably should cast as wide a net as possible.