“Developers competing to build casino hotels in the Hudson Valley and Catskills promise thousands of jobs to boost the region’s economy, a key factor the state will weigh when it selects which projects win gaming licenses.
The state is looking for casinos that provide the highest number of quality jobs and reduce unemployment in disadvantaged areas. The winning projects will be announced in the fall.
Ten companies surveyed by the Times Herald-Record – one dropped out of the race for a license Thursday – estimated they would each create 1,250-3,000 permanent jobs.
Those jobs will run the gamut from six-figure upper-management positions to housekeeping jobs paying little more than minimum wage.
One hopeful proposing a project in the Town of Newburgh, Saratoga Casino and Raceway, said 47 percent of its positions would be entry-level jobs. Saratoga said those jobs have the “highest potential” for people who are unemployed or underemployed.
Marie Blair, coordinator of Orange Works, the county’s employment service, agreed.
A casino “would really boost the number of jobs for people looking for an entry-level position,” she said.
Outside of entry-level work, 30 percent of the jobs at Saratoga’s proposed resort are highly skilled gaming positions, such as dealers and slot technicians.
The developers surveyed said their nonmanagement jobs would pay between about $30,000 and $70,000. Greenetrack, proposing a casino on land owned by New Windsor next to Stewart International Airport, says it pays its employees $20 per hour, plus tips and benefits. Saratoga says its managers would earn up to $180,000.
In Atlantic City, N.J., the East Coast’s gaming mecca, nearly a third of casino hotel workers are employed in occupations with median pay of less than $30,000 annually, according to the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development. Some of those, such as bellhops, concierges, bartenders and parking-lot attendants, also earn tips. Others are in nontipping positions such as laundry workers, office clerks and food-preparation workers.
Waitresses and waiters at Atlantic City casino hotels start at $2.13 per hour, the Garden State’s minimum tipped-employee wage, said Caitlyn Bradley Weiss, director of the Retail, Hospitality & Tourism Network of Southern New Jersey.
“Although the season does not always allow for the opportunity to make the same amount of money, many tipped employees in Atlantic City can see several hundred dollars, in cash, on a nightly basis,” Weiss said.
New York state’s minimum wage for tipped employees is $4.50 in 2014. It increases to $5.05 in 2016.
Depending on the pay, casinos attract workers from a 40-minute radius, said Marc Baez, CEO of the Sullivan County Partnership for Economic Development.
That means workers will commute from Sullivan, Delaware, Ulster and Orange counties, as well as parts of Pennsylvania, to work at a Sullivan casino. Skilled jobs with higher wages will attract people from farther away.
An Orange County casino would pull workers from much of the same area, with resorts near the county’s southern edge potentially attracting employees from Rockland County and New Jersey, as well.
In their applications to the state, casino developers will have to enumerate how many of the jobs they create will be filled by residents of the state, Hudson Valley/Catskill region and the host and surrounding municipalities of the project.
Sullivan County had 2,200 unemployed people in April, a rate of 6.8 percent. For the same month, Orange County’s unemployed count totaled 8,900, or 5.2 percent, with a combined 2,400 unemployed in the Town and City of Newburgh and New Windsor, an area targeted by at least two developers.
Maureen Halahan, CEO of the Orange County Partnership, foresees jobs for everyone when a casino lands in the region. It’s just a matter of Orange County residents traveling up the hill, or workers from Sullivan County coming down.
“There’s not a gate,” Halahan said.
Atlantic City’s experience
Of the 31,900 people employed by the Atlantic City gaming industry in 2012, the most recent data available, the largest job categories were gaming dealers, with 5,990 workers, and waiters/waitresses, with 3,180. The Labor Department gives no estimate of their pay because earnings depend heavily on tips.
Unlike most casino jobs, dealers aren’t widely unionized, according to C. Robert McDevitt, president of Unite Here! Local 54, an Atlantic City union representing casino workers. He and Weiss of the Retail, Hospitality & Tourism network said dealers are typically paid $5-$6 per hour, plus tips, which are pooled and distributed on the basis of hours worked.
Their earnings, McDevitt said, “all depend on how busy the games are.”
Managers earn the most in Atlantic City casino hotels. Their median pay ranged in 2012 from $68,510 for 50 maintenance supervisors, to $109,310 for 140 marketing managers.
Unionized hotel and restaurant workers in Atlantic City’s casinos earn more than their counterparts in hotels without casinos, according to the New Jersey Labor Department. Bigger tips play a part in that, as does the opportunity for higher-paying jobs than are found in nongaming establishments.
Genting Americas, which is proposing the upscale Sterling Forest Resort in the Town of Tuxedo, has unionized workers at Resorts World New York City, its slots parlor at the Aqueduct racetrack in Queens. The workers unionized last year.
Workers at Resorts World New York City are paid $25-$30 per hour, with some wages as high as $40 per hour, said Colin Au, an adviser to Genting, during a public meeting on the Tuxedo project.
Cocktail waitresses earn $100,000 per year at Resorts World, he said.
At the Sterling Forest Resort, salaries would be above $50,000, the company told the town at another public meeting.
The region has hundreds of workers who have the skills to fill some of the thousands of jobs a casino would create.
The database for one-stop employment centers in the region shows 314 people with food-preparation and service-related job experience, and 239 experienced cleaners and housekeepers looking for work in Orange and Sullivan. In Ulster, there are 187 experienced food preparers, and 140 cleaners. Those are only people actively looking for work and registered with the county employment centers. The numbers don’t include people interested in such jobs, but lacking experience.
Casino companies eyeing the region say they will offer on-the-job training, and have plans to partner with local colleges to design programs for the hospitality industry.
Nevele Investors, developer of a casino resort just outside Ellenville in Ulster County, has worked for several months with several SUNY schools to prepare training for a surge of hospitality jobs at the company’s proposed casino, resort and spa.
Saratoga worked with Schenectady County Community College, near the company’s racino, to develop a casino and gaming management curriculum, said Rita Cox, senior vice president of marketing and external affairs at the casino.
The school offers an associate’s degree in casino and gaming management. Courses include “casino security and surveillance,” which reveals common scams and cheating methods, as well as classes about table games, sports book operations and the cashier’s cage.
Cox shared her work experience during a May meeting in the City of Newburgh. She started out as a manager in the company’s marketing department and grew with the company.
Saratoga intends to draw upon “the untapped local labor force,” Cox said in a prepared statement, and “provide long-term opportunities for growth and advancement … These positions offer not just jobs, but career opportunities.”
The employment payoff for us
The Times Herald-Record asked the casino hotel developers that have announced plans in Orange, Sullivan and Ulster counties how many jobs they anticipate creating, and for a breakdown by category and pay. The state requires similar information by June 30. Here’s what they said.
Saratoga Casino and Raceway
Town of Newburgh
2,858 full-time jobs, creating a total payroll of $85 million.
2,500 permanent jobs
Genting Americas’ Sterling Forest Resort
More than 2,000 jobs, with salaries greater than $50,000 per year
Penn National Gaming and the Cordish Companies
Caesars and Flaum Management Co.
3,000 permanent jobs, with average pay of about $50,000 plus benefits
2,161 full- and part-time jobs representing an annual payroll of more than $60 million
Concord Associates/Mohegan Sun
1,250 permanent jobs
Foxwoods Catskill Resort
Town of Wawarsing
About 2,000 permanent jobs, with most paying $40,000 or more, and several hundred paying more than $60,000
Details coming in June
Applications for gaming licenses are due to the state in about three weeks, by June 30. Developers are required to lay out three different scenarios for their projects: low, average and high revenue.
For each scenario, developers must provide an estimate of total employment, as either full-time workers, part-time workers or full-time equivalents. They also must list pay rates and benefits for each job classification at the resort, and detail how many of the positions will be filled by local, regional and state residents.
Applicants are required to implement a workforce-development plan that uses the existing labor force.”