The Kansas Star Casino is gearing up for another big wave of hiring.
Beginning this summer, casino officials expect to start the process of hiring 300 more workers, most of whom will be needed for its food and beverage operations as well as in the gaming area, said Scott Cooper, Kansas Star’s general manager, and Diana Farha, director of human resources.
Once that process is complete, the casino will boast employment of 900 people.
“Our focus will be on recruiting locally,” Farha said.
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The new jobs come with the next phase of construction at the casino, which began operations in December inside a 5,000-seat arena designed for equestrian and other entertainment events, such as concerts. The next phase includes building a permanent gaming area that will add 420 more slot machines, 10 more table games and five more poker tables, Cooper said. It will also add a 150-room hotel and space for nine restaurants and five bars. The restaurants will include a steakhouse, Asian noodle bar, buffet, deli and sports bar.
“It’s a major expansion in scope and square footage,” Cooper said.
The permanent casino will be 180,000 square feet while the arena is 100,000 square feet. The temporary casino occupies 53,000 square feet. Peninsula Gaming, based in Dubuque, Iowa, is building and managing the casino for the state of Kansas. It estimates it will be investing $314 million in the property.
On Friday, Peninsula reported that in Kansas Star’s first full quarter, the casino recorded $50.3 million in net revenue.
Already, the casino employs 601 people. Of that total, more than a third works in the table games and poker department: dealers and their supervisors, otherwise know as “pit bosses.”
That group of employees will account for the second-largest portion of workers the casino will hire for the opening of the permanent casino. Like the casino’s first wave of dealers, most of those hired in the coming round will have no experience being a casino dealer, Farha said. Those applicants who make it through the first part of the hiring process will receive eight weeks of training to become a dealer. They also will have to pass an “audition” to secure jobs as dealers once they complete the training.
“We can recruit locally for that, we can train them, and shortly thereafter they will be working on the floor,” Cooper said.
Farha said about 50 percent of the dealers it hired and trained last year were previously unemployed.
“It’s a great way to give a spike to the local … economy,” Cooper said.
But the vast majority of the people Kansas Star hires in the second round will be in the food and beverage area, Cooper said. That includes positions such as servers, cooks, dishwashers and sous chefs.
Farha said she hopes that the casino’s benefit package for full-time employees — medical, dental and vision insurance and 401(k) with a 3 percent company match — will help draw candidates with experience in local restaurants or elsewhere in the hospitality industry. Area restaurant workers often don’t have the kind of benefits that the casino will offer.
“It’s a huge selling piece,” she said.
Farha said the casino will begin seeking food and beverage workers and dealers in the summer. Information about the jobs and online applications will be available at www.kansasstarcasino.com.
She and Cooper estimate that 80 to 85 percent of the casino’s current employees are in full-time positions. They said they expect the percentage of full-time positions in the second round of hiring to be within that range.
About 90 percent of the jobs were filled by people from the metro area, they said.
Some jobs at the casino require casino experience, such as shift supervisors, who are the bosses of the pit bosses. Kari Bisping said she has worked for casinos off and on since 1995 and came to Kansas Star from Peninsula Gaming in Iowa. She has also led the training classes for dealers at Kansas Star.
Training is key for casinos, especially when the bulk of staff have no experience in the industry.
“If we give them the right kind of training it’s not impossible to learn it,” Cooper said.
Even more important, Cooper said, is customer service.
“The customer is really the boss, and we have to provide a good experience for them,” he said.
“Our business is really a hospitality business,” Cooper said. “What they want out of (a visit to the casino) is a friendly experience.”
That emphasis on customer service extends down to such positions as security. Pete Stephens, a security officer who’s worked at Kansas Star since it opened, estimates that 90 percent of his job is customer service, providing directions, answering questions about the casino’s services and escorting customers when they win a big pay-out.
“It really probably deals with good PR (public relations) skills,” Stephens, a former Sedgwick County detention deputy, said of the skills required of security officers.