Betting on the future, developers proposing a casino in East Greenbush held a career fair Tuesday, more than a month before licenses are awarded and years before a casino will be built.
Saratoga Harness Racing and Churchill Downs hosted the event to inform local job seekers of the skills needed for various positions that would be created if the state Gaming Commission chooses its casino proposal. Although the jobs are a long way from fruition, dozens of Capital Region residents stopped by to see what opportunities would be available if a casino were built in the town.
Waterford resident Bonnie Perry, 43, said she has been out of work for some time and would like to land a job as a waitress at the Capital View Casino and Resort on Thompson Hill.
“I’m so for this casino because it would create so many jobs,” she said while filling out an application at Melvin Roads American Legion Post 1231 in East Greenbush. “I used to be in the entertainment business, and I would love to do waitressing because I’m a people person.”
Perry said even though the casino would be built more than a year from now, she believes “it is never too soon to start looking.”
Meanwhile, Save East Greenbush — a group of local residents opposed to the casino — released a statement Tuesday afternoon knocking the event as “a ruse,” saying it gives people false hope of employment.
“The proposed career fair is based upon the same business model used by casinos that encourages people to place a bet with the false hope of a rich payout,” the group said. “Without a license, the proposed casino does not have any opportunities for employment available and therefore should not be holding a career fair.”
Booths were set up with representatives from unions and veterans groups discussing the potential opportunities in fields including advertising and marketing, casino and gaming management and hotel and restaurant management.
Saratoga Casino and Raceway in Saratoga Springs also had its own booth, looking to fill nearly 20 available positions, including openings for a bartender, cook and security guard.
At its busiest time, the career fair welcomed hundreds of people, according to Saratoga Casino spokeswoman Rita Cox. She was thrilled with the turnout.
“One of the biggest things we want is to make sure a bulk of these jobs are from the region and filled by local people,” she said. “We want people to know what the jobs are and how they can get them.”
Also at the career fair were instructors from Schenectady County Community College’s casino and gaming management program. The two-year associate degree program teaches students how to run live table games, along with skills in accounting, marketing, security and surveillance.
“It’s a great time for people to come and talk to us,” said Kim Otis, the program’s lead instructor. “Students are excited for these potential jobs, and the supply and demand for candidates is definitely in our favor.”
Saratoga Casino is a partner in the program, providing $10,000 in scholarships — $2,500 each for four students. The casino also provides internship opportunities for students, as do Churchill Downs and Turning Stone Resort and Casino.
The program just completed its first year and will welcome 50 students this fall. Otis said interest in the program is growing, and she is exploring additional classes and partnerships.
Casinos are also being pitched in Cobleskill, Rensselaer and Schenectady. Otis stressed that wherever a casino is placed, SCCC’s program would benefit and provide workers.
Saratoga Harness and Churchill Downs are pitching the Capital View Casino and Resort, which will house 1,506 slot machines and 56 table games. The project also includes a 100-room hotel, restaurants and an events center.
The casino is expected to create more than 1,000 jobs and a similar number of construction jobs.
The state Gaming Commission’s Facility Location Board will choose sites for a casino in the fall, with four casino licenses distributed among the Capital Region, Hudson Valley and Southern Tier.