Gaming school opens to solve staff deficits

Vicksburg – Employee turnover and short staffs are problems already facing Vicksburg casinos, and the demand for skilled workers is about to get higher as a fifth casino begins hiring and another nears completion of a gaming room expansion.

Meanwhile, the city’s first casino college has opened with goals of easing local shortages.

„This isn’t something that’s a new phenomenon, it’s always been an issue in this industry,“ said Kim Tullos, general manager for DiamondJacks Casino. „There’s an inherent amount of turnover that is always prevalent in casinos.“

Table dealer and housekeeping and food and beverage positions are the hardest positions to keep filled in area casinos. Not coincidentally, these are typically the lowest paying positions and require the least amount of experience.

And although the gaming houses provide solid benefits packages to full-time employees and incremental incentives for long-term employees, there is almost never a time when casinos are not hiring for these positions.

Retention bonuses are standard at nearly all casinos, as are several employee appreciation days throughout the year.

Ameristar Casino, Vicksburg’s largest, also provides a new car for its team member of the year and prizes of up to $ 5,000 and all-expense-paid trips anywhere in the world to other valued employees.

However, Tullos said long-term employees at casinos need daily incentives to stick with one casino.

„I don’t think employees stay for the bonuses. That’s not what drives them to longevity,“ she said. „You have to provide an environment each day that shows them they’re appreciated and allows them the opportunity to advance their careers.“

The city’s four casinos employ roughly 2,100 people. A fifth, Riverwalk Casino, is scheduled to open in November. Hundreds of employees will be needed to staff the new casino, but administrators did not return calls to discuss specifics on employment.

Meanwhile, Ameristar is close to completing a USD 100 million expansion and is hiring to fill positions that will become available when the project is finished

Ameristar General Manager Adrian Caldwell said multiple recruiting events will be held locally in the coming months, including a job fair.

Statewide, 29 casinos employ about 27,000 people. Comparatively, 13 casinos in Atlantic City have roughly 40,800 employees, and 160 casinos in Las Vegas employ 163,000.

The Casino College of Mississippi is first in Vicksburg and third in the state. About 25 students have signed on.

Instructor Clint Malvezzi said the city is a natural fit for the college.

„I’m really surprised there isn’t one open here already. Gaming is such a big part of the economy. We hope to help all the casinos fill some staffing gaps.