Hundreds Attend Job Fair at Suffolk Downs

Nearly 1,000 people showed up for two job forums at Suffolk Downs last Thursday afternoon and evening – far surpassing what anyone expected for the turnout.

The crowd was jubilant and excited.

The presentation was slick, glossy and well rehearsed.

The potential new face of Suffolk Downs – and the current face of Caesar’s Entertainment – was expertly described by current Caesar’s employees from casinos in Las Vegas, New Orleans, Cincinnati and Cleveland.

That said, many in the crowd did leave slightly disappointed, with a number of visitors saying at the afternoon session that they expected to see actual job openings and job postings at the forum.

“I thought the presentation was informative,” said Mary Ellen Dion of East Boston, who is currently in the hospitality industry. “I thought it was helpful to hear the employees. I did think, though, this would be a forum where they would tell us about exact jobs that are available – the details of those jobs that would be coming. It was an ok forum, though. It was good to hear about the company and the benefits and how they treat their employees.”

Others – particularly those in the trades – were excited about the forum and hoped to land construction jobs and then full-time gigs at the potential casino.

“I came here today because I’m looking to get a construction job,” said David Holden of Beachmont in Revere. “I’m an electrician and a member of Local 103. I’d like to build this casino and then stay here. I’m a Revere resident and live right next door here in Beachmont. I know something has to go here. If this casino doesn’t come here, then something else will. I thought the forum today sounded great.”

Representatives from Caesar’s were clear about the timeline for jobs and job offers.

They indicated that some 10 to 12 months from any potential opening, they would begin to inform people about the jobs that will be coming available. Following that, eight months from an opening, they would begin recruiting in the local organizations and schools – advertising all postings in the local media.

After the recruitment, a period of interviews would take place and new employees would be brought on board.

Of course, none of that can take place until voters make their choice on Nov. 5 about whether or not a casino should be located at Suffolk Downs. If that vote were to prevail, then it would be up to the Mass Gaming Commission to award a casino license, which would come next April. If Suffolk Downs were to get that license, then and only then would specific jobs become available.

Most of the forum on Thursday, therefore, was devoted to employee testimonials. Six current Caesar’s employees from different casinos around the country talked about how flexible the company is, about the endless opportunities, and about the great benefits.

“I was in retail for years, working for just one company the whole time,” said Antoine Perry, who works at the Horseshoe Cleveland Casino. “I injured my back there and was just never the same. I had no gaming experience, but I heard about Horseshoe hiring and there was a lot of media publicity about it, so I decided to apply. I didn’t know how  gaming would work for me. One skill I had and was confident in was that I liked working with people. I went into the interview confident of that skill and I got the job. One year later I’m a manager and am supervising 60 people.”

Vananh Nguyen, who is 23, talked about working at Harrah’s New Orleans Casino and how the flexible hours and benefits helped her to succeed in her job and take on the duties of being a single mother.

Fighting back tears, she told of how Caesar’s supported her with childcare.

“They supported me so much with child care for my son,” she said. “I was able to take the money I saved on child care and put it aside for a down payment on a house. Caesar’s also gives employees $2,500 for first time homebuyer down payment assistance. With the money I saved on childcare and the down payment assistance, I can and am proud to say that at 23, I am a homeowner.”

Caesar’s Palace (Las Vegas) employee Lynn Durkin said she had worked in massage therapy for years, but got pummeled by the economic downturn in 2008. Ready to take any job, she turned to the gaming industry and never looked back.

“If you come to work with a  positive open mind, Caesars will give you all the tools you need to succeed,” Durkin said. “I had no experience in gaming, but I came in with a positive attitude and worked in their spa. I did succeed. I think the sky’s the limit for me at Caesar’s.”

Richard Blake, a Falmouth native who has worked security for years at Caesar’s in Las Vegas, said he believed that a casino in Boston is a great opportunity.

“This is a good thing and a good thing for Boston,” he said. “This place is my hometown and I wouldn’t be here to say this if I didn’t believe it was a good thing.”

Suffolk leaders implored the crowd, in closing, to vote ‘yes’ for the casino in the Nov. 5 referendum, and encouraged those in attendance to take bumper stickers, signs and buttons.

It has been estimated that, at full build out, there will be 4,000 permanent jobs at the casino. The track also expects to have 2,500 construction jobs in place during the phased build out.

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