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Employment center at Maryland Live! opens to long lines

Below-freezing temperatures on Monday morning didn’t keep job seekers away from the opening of the Maryland Live! Casino employment center in Hanover as dozens of applicants hoping for one of 1,500 positions lined up in front of the building.

Job seekers flood into the Maryland Live Casino Employment office in Hanover

More than 5,000 applications had been submitted online before the employment center’s opening, said Carmen Gonzales, spokesperson for Maryland Live! Casino. The application went live just more than a month ago.

When the doors of the employment center, at 7270 Park Circle Drive, opened at 10 a.m., those who had not yet filled out an online application were directed to one of 25 computers. Others were given the opportunity for a “meet and greet” interview with a recruiter. More than an hour after opening, there only standing room was available inside of the center, with a line of people still waiting to get in.

Tim Beron, of Baltimore, applied in advance for a marketing position. The recent Indiana University graduate said he had not been having success with online job boards. Coming into the employment center meant “I can put forth the image that I want to,” he said.

The casino has about 25 employees on staff, with another dozen starting within the next two weeks, Gonzales said. Already-hired positions include management, administrative and human resources jobs.

As of Monday morning, the casino’s online job site had 34 open positions, also on the management or administrative level.

“Once we get those positions filled, we’ll start to hire frontline workers,” said Lynn Norris, the vice president of human resources.

In the next three to five weeks, the casino will begin posting positions for service workers, including food and beverage, security, surveillance, and gambling positions, Norris said.

Mass recruitment for frontline positions will run through February and March, with candidates selected by April, Gonzales said.

Job seekers are encouraged to sign up now to receive notice when applications for their desired positions become available.

The largest departments will be food and beverage, casino, security and marketing, with approximately 250, 150, 100 and 75 positions, Gonzales said.

The casino will also offer an onsite health care facility for employees.

Maryland Live! Casino, at the Arundel Mills mall, is scheduled for a 60 percent opening in June, including 3,000 of the 4,750 slot machines and electronic game tables, and a full opening in October, said Joe Weinberg, managing partner for the Cordish Cos., the Baltimore-based company that is developing the property.

Weinberg said it was “particularly gratifying to be able to generate so many jobs,” including 2,500 construction positions. While the casino will offer jobs in varying skill levels, all employees must be at least 21 years old.

Maryland’s unemployment rate was 6.9 percent in November, down from 7.2 in October, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Though that was the largest single-month decrease since the start of the recession, unemployment still remains high.

“The region needs jobs,” said Richard Clinch, director of economic development for the University of Baltimore-based Jacob France Institute.

The particular advantage of a casino is that casino jobs tend to pay relatively higher wages for the skill level, he said.

However, because the majority of positions will go to lower-skilled workers, and there is a high concentration of lower-skilled workers in Baltimore, Clinch said he expects “mass transit is going to be vital for these jobs.”

Gonzales said discussions about addressing transportation around the casino have begun.

Because casino gambling is relatively new to the area, Robert Norton, president and general manager of Maryland Live! Casino, said applicants don’t need casino experience.

“We’re looking for the dynamic, fun personalities,” he said, noting that job training will be provided, “but the personalities are hard to teach.”

That outlook may prove to be what Cheryl Moore of Linthicum needs. Moore said she has been a bartender for 25 years, most recently at Banners American Bar and Grill in Locust Point, until the bar’s closing caused her to lose her job in November.

Moore said she would take “whatever they had” but is hoping to get another bartending position, which is a career she enjoyed because of the people it allowed her to meet.

“Everybody has a story, and I hear them all,” she said.

Some job seekers who came in on Monday, however, weren’t banking on experience — they were banking on a first chance.

Jamal Day said he was looking for a maintenance or security position. The 32-year-old Baltimore resident said he has never had a job before, but has spent the last two years pursuing his GED and participating in workforce development classes. He has put in more than 50 job applications over the last two years but been called for only three interviews. Day, whose family is expecting a child this year, said he knows waiting so long to join the workforce counts against him, but he’s hoping the new casino will hire him.

“I’m hoping I can be one of those 1,500 people. I pray to God I can be one of those 1,500,” he said. “Hopefully, it can be a way to get on my feet. Hopefully, it’s a new start on my life.”

Maryland Live! will be Maryland’s third and largest casino. The flood of applications is similar to what happened when Hollywood Casino in Perryville and The Casino at Ocean Downs in Berlin opened.

“They had lines around the corner for people applying for a position here. They had thousands of applications,” said Hollywood Casino general manager Bill Hayles. Hollywood Casino operates 1,500 slot machines and opened in September 2010.

Ocean Downs, which operates 750 slot machines, held two job fairs leading up to its January 2011 opening. The casino’s first job fair drew 400 people, and the second drew 1,400, said Joe Cavilla, general manager of Ocean Downs.