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Best of Howard Stutz

Gaming Guru

Howard Stutz

Colorado beckoning casino workers

4 May 2009

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- Mark Wexler hasn't worked as a table games dealer since November, when the tanking Southern California economy eliminated his job at the Pechanga Casino in Riverside County.

Wexler, who spent 17 years dealing table games and working as a floor supervisor on the Strip, said he can't find a dealing job in Las Vegas because casinos aren't hiring. Waiting until CityCenter's Aria resort opens in December means he would be sidelined for eight more months.

Colorado, however, beckons.

Wexler was one of about 100 job applicants this week at the offices of Golden Gaming. The Las Vegas-based tavern operator owns three small casinos in Black Hawk, Colo., and is seeking 35 experienced casino workers to fill positions when gaming expands this summer in the market about 38 miles west of Denver.

"You have to go where the jobs are, and there is just nothing here," Wexler said.

Colorado voters in November approved gaming expansion in the state. On July 2, casinos in Black Hawk will be allowed to remain open for 24 hours and offer roulette and craps for the first time. Wagering limits have changed from a maximum of $5 per bet to $100.

Golden Gaming Chief Executive Officer Steve Arcana said the changes necessitated the need for experienced dealers and floor supervisors. That's why the company thought about offering jobs to out-of-work Las Vegas casino employees, where the job pool is plentiful.

"Colorado is one of the few gaming markets actually showing some growth," Arcana said. "When you change the limits and add new games, you want experienced people. Game protection increases in importance. The games become different when you can bet higher limits. We thought bringing in a good mix of experienced people would help in our efforts in Black Hawk."

In addition to dealers, Golden Gaming took applications for table games supervisors and managers, surveillance operators and supervisors and casino cage supervisors.

The company held a similar job fair in Black Hawk and had 1,200 applicants. Those hired in Colorado and Las Vegas will attend the company's dealing school in Black Hawk.

"It will be a nice mix of new folks with our existing dealing staff," Arcana said.

The Golden Mardi Gras Casino, Golden Gates Casino and Golden Gulch Casino operate a combined 1,250 slot machines, nine blackjack tables and 12 poker tables. Craps and roulette tables will be added in July.

Arcana said the casinos' three restaurants will also be expanded.

The casinos operate in what is considered a locals market, but Arcana said the new games, extended gambling hours and increased wagering limits will help change the destination to attract additional visitors. He said the expansion provides more opportunity for dealers.

That possibility lured David Bochers to apply for a dealing job. He has 30 years of casino experience and helped open the Mandalay Bay in 1999. He tried the restaurant business in 2007, opening a franchise of the Rockin' Baja Lobster chain in 2007. But the eatery closed last year.

Going back to a dealing career seemed like the best alternative in the current economic environment.

"I haven't been able to find anything in Las Vegas," Bochers said. "Going to Colorado seems like a good opportunity."

Stacy Hayes dealt cards at the Hollywood Casino in Aurora, Ill., before coming to Las Vegas in 2007 and moving over to the food services side of the casino business. But his job was eliminated last year. He views a job in Colorado as a way of building his level of table game experience.

"You have to be willing to go where the jobs are," Hayes said.