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Best of Howard Stutz

Gaming Guru

Howard Stutz

Marketplace: Casino hiring scramble starts

25 June 2007

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- The Palazzo is getting a jump on its competition in what some gaming analysts believe could be an all-out battle for casino employees.

An employment center for the $1.8 billion resort opens this morning as Las Vegas Sands Corp. begins the process of hiring some 4,000 workers for the Strip resort, which is scheduled to open by the end of the year.

Because the 3,000-room Palazzo is a sister property and connected to the 4,000-room Venetian, many noncustomer service and back-of-the-house support positions will be shared by the two hotel-casinos.

Nevertheless, the Palazzo has 420 job classifications including positions in housekeeping, gaming, food and beverage, property operations, marketing, telecommunications, wedding services, entertainment and administration.

"We think this process will lead to between 10 and 13 applicants per available position," said Mike Gentry, vice president of human resources for The Venetian and Palazzo. "We're preparing for more than 50,000 applicants because this is a top-tier gaming property. Our plan has been to go through a four-month hiring process."

Gentry expects that between 700 and 1,000 current Venetian employees will probably apply to switch to the Palazzo, which means those positions would also have to be refilled.

Prospective Palazzo workers will be able to set times for their job interviews, to keep the employment center free of long lines and clutter.

"That's one thing we learned from watching how our competition recently went through this process," Gentry said. "This is much more convenient for applicants."

The hiring process for the Palazzo employees commences the next wave of new Las Vegas hotel-casinos, following the 2005 openings of Wynn Las Vegas and the South Point and the 2006 opening of Red Rock Resort.

Palazzo, which hasn't set a firm opening date, is the first of the new Strip resorts to go online and is expected to be followed by the $2.1 billion Encore, a sister property to Wynn Las Vegas, in 2009 and MGM Mirage's $7.4 billion CityCenter, also in 2009.

On a smaller scale, the initial tower of the nongaming Trump International Hotel & Tower opens next year as will Station Casino's $650 million Aliante Station in North Las Vegas. Boyd Gaming Corp.'s $4.8 billion, 5,000-room Echelon project broke ground last week but is not expected to open until 2010.

In a February report to investors, Wall Street firm Deutsche Bank said the Las Vegas casino industry will need to fill some 113,500 positions by 2012. The report was completed before the New York-based Elad Group announced plans in May to replace the New Frontier with a $5 billion resort and joint-venture development on the Strip's north end between MGM Mirage and Kerzner International.

Gaming analyst Bill Lerner, who authored the Deutsche Bank report, said the job market could be stressed after CityCenter begins filling its available positions.

Even with Nevada's relatively low unemployment -- the rate is now 4.6 percent -- Gentry believes the Palazzo will find an available work force. Some potential employees could come the shuttered Stardust, which closed in November, and New Frontier, which is closing in July and will displace about 1,000 hotel and casino workers.

The Palazzo, he said, should also be able to draw from other Strip casinos.

"The older resorts are going to have a problem as this hiring phase begins," Lerner said. "They will probably lose employees disproportionately as the new casinos hire workers. For the Palazzo, as a high-end property where quality of service is critical, the earlier Las Vegas Sands can bring in the staff and train them, the better it is for the customers."

Gentry is happy the Palazzo is first in line.

"We're hitting the market at just the right time," Gentry said.