February 27, 2011

Most jobs at new casino will go to Kansans

True to its name, the Kansas Star casino will be staffed mostly by people from Kansas.

True to its name, the Kansas Star casino will be staffed mostly by people from Kansas.

Iowa-based Peninsula Gaming plans to fill 90 percent of its positions with Kansans who have no casino experience, said Scott Cooper, general manager.

"There's very few people that really require casino experience, except for what I'd define as senior executive leaders who have specific expertise in slots or table games," he said. "Half the directors and the rest of the work force will be local."

So far, nearly 1,000 people have filed online applications for jobs at the casino, which will be built near the Mulvane exit of the Kansas Turnpike.

Peninsula continues to accept applications on its website, kansasstarcasino.com.

The company plans to hire 400 to 500 people for the first phase of the development, which is due to open next February as an interim casino in a building that eventually will become a convention, events and equestrian center.

Jobs include cocktail servers, parking valets, cashiers, coat checkers, dealers, slots technicians, security officers, pit managers, supervisors and administrators.

By the time the Kansas Star is completed in 2015, it will employ nearly 1,000 people. The average salary will be $38,000, Cooper said. Salaries for specific jobs weren't available from Peninsula.

Cooper, formerly the general manager at Peninsula's Diamond Jo Casino in Dubuque, has opened 10 casinos in New York and Las Vegas, and in regional markets in Illinois, Missouri and Louisiana.

The hiring process at the Kansas Star will be similar to the others, he said, and it will result in a casino that is ready for customers on opening day.

"A lot of people think the casino business is this one-of-a-kind, strange animal that's so much different than any other business, but our business is governed by the same principles as others," Cooper said.

Personality for the job

One difference is that casinos have "front-of-the-house" employees who deal with customers, and "back-of-the-house" employees, such as those in administrative offices, who don't.

Peninsula will be looking people who are outgoing, personal, and friendly for jobs that deal directly with customers, Cooper said.

Veteran casino employees say the experience is rewarding.

Jennifer Reel, mother of two young daughters whose husband is a fifth-grade teacher, used to be a cook at a nursing home. She liked to work with people and a casino job looked like a chance to do that.

She has been a dealer at the Diamond Jo in Dubuque for 14 years.

"I didn't quite know what to expect, but I remember my first day dealing I was so happy, so excited. It's an experience," she said.

After training, she remembered, her first day at the tables in front of real customers was nerve-racking but exciting.

"They are there to have fun, and it eases the pressure," Reel said.

Bill Schumann, who has been dealing table games at the Diamond Jo for two years, used to be in the car business and dreaded going to work. No longer, he said. Every day is a chance to interact with a wide assortment of customers who sit down at his tables.

"It's a great sense of fulfillment to me. I don't consider myself a dealer, I consider myself an entertainer. I'm here for the customer, and if they're happy, I'm happy. It's hard to explain unless you've done it."

Training for dealers

Peninsula will stay in touch with those who apply for jobs at the Kansas Star. It will send out e-mail updates of news and job information — such as job fairs and a training school for dealers — at least once a month until the Kansas Star opens.

The training school for those who want to deal blackjack and other table games will start four months from the opening and last all four months.

Classes will be held five days a week, one in the morning and one in the evening, to accommodate the work schedules of applicants. Graduates will audition for jobs at the Kansas Star.

"Those that demonstrate the highest understanding and skill levels, you'll see them on the casino floor," Cooper said.

Peninsula also is scouting locations for a series of job fairs it plans to host in Sumner and Sedgwick counties. No dates have been set yet.

Cooper said Peninsula is looking for a human resources director locally.

Once that position is filled, he said, the hiring process will be stepped up. The new director will begin sifting through the online applications. Cooper is checking them regularly for now. The bulk of the hiring will begin about three months before the casino opens, Cooper said.

Those who are hired must pass background checks by the Kansas Racing and Gaming Commission.

When it opens, the Kansas Star's interim casino will include 1,310 slot machines, 32 gaming tables, a 50-seat snack bar and several food and beverage kiosks, the company has said.

The permanent casino is scheduled to open in January 2013 with more slots and tables, a 10-table poker room, a buffet, steak house, food court, two bars and a 150-room hotel.

When completed in 2015, the Kansas Star will have 2,000 slots, 50 gaming tables, a 300-room hotel, an RV park, a gift shop, and an expanded equestrian/events/convention center.

All new employees will receive a minimum of two weeks of training.

"When the doors open you've got to be ready," said John Tharp, director of casino operations at the Diamond Jo, who oversees slots and table operations. "We have to make sure everybody has a great time and a great experience.

"A lot of customer service is learned on the job, but you really need to have a good awareness of it before you open the door."


Qualifications Peninsula looks for in employees include previous customer-service background, education, work history, "then, just a good attitude," Tharp said.

Peninsula offers all of its employees 401(k) plans, health insurance, paid vacations and recognition programs that reward workers for involvement in community activities.

Reel said she works a 10 a.m.-to-6 p.m. shift with a 20-minute break after each hour.

The break room has refreshments, big-screen TVs, magazines and meals for employees.

Breaks keep her fresh and help reduce mistakes.

"I have fun every day," Reel said.

"I have made mistakes, but the customers will help you, too," Schumann said. "It's a little stressful. But you put more pressure on yourself to perform."

"I've been dealing two years and I'm still not bored," he said.

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