Dozens of Baltimore residents walked into Upton's Union Baptist Church Sunday. They were dressed fastidiously in dark suits and dark dresses.
Their eyes turned toward the stage where they saw an odd sight for a house of worship: A gambling advertisement and an oversize pair of red dice.
Horseshoe Baltimore's local hiring efforts stretched into church Sunday afternoon as part of a 14-district tour of Baltimore to try to hire city residents for the casino's 1,700 jobs.
Rev. Alvin C. Hathaway, Sr. acknowledged the unusual pairing of a casino with a church, but he said churches have a duty to help their community members obtain employment.
"I know the need," Hathaway said. "In this community, the average family income is $13,000 for a family of four."
Hathaway surveyed the job hopefuls, who ranged from teens looking for starter jobs to experienced men and women seeking supervisory roles.
"As the city brings jobs online, it's important that all elements of the city be involved and engaged," he said. "I have people here who are college graduates. I have people who need a first-shot opportunity. These are people who are upstanding citizens. These are people who just need an opportunity."
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has credited Horseshoe Baltimore's local hiring efforts as going far beyond what other major companies have done in the city. Sunday, eight volunteers sat across a long table from job-seekers at the church, informing them of various available positions, answering questions and helping with applications.
"This is an effort to make sure we get Baltimore residents jobs in the casino," said Joan Wilmer-Stewart, a company vice president. "We said, 'Let's go to the backyards of Baltimore.'"
West Baltimore resident Wanda Wallace, 49, said she's had jobs ranging from room service to admissions counseling, but thinks she wants to work at the casino after speaking with a Horseshoe volunteer. Wallace said she learned about the job fair from Council member Helen Holton and Rawlings-Blake's publicity efforts.
"It looks like it might be a good fit for me," Wallace said.
Horseshoe Baltimore has committed to citywide outreach efforts to inform residents of job opportunities at the casino. The company is hosting recruitment sessions throughout Baltimore for its "Legendary Candidates Academy," which provides training to potential applicants over two days.
Horseshoe Baltimore, a Caesars Entertainment subsidiary, also has agreed to fund a temporary employee in the mayor's employment development office to lead hiring efforts in Baltimore, print informational materials targeting potential employees in the city, and report twice a year to city officials on hiring progress toward its workforce development plan.
The company has said about 12,000 people have inquired online about jobs at the casino, which will be located on Russell Street near M&T Bank Stadium. The facility is expected to open in either August or September.
The casino company is opening a $442 million, 335,000 square-foot gambling complex near the stadiums downtown. Plans for the Russell Street casino call for a 122,000 square-foot gaming floor with slot machines, table games and a "World Series of Poker" room.
The developers have agreed to pay the city at least $11 million in the first year of operation, which will be used to help fund the mayor's proposed property tax cut for homeowners. Rawlings-Blake plans to cut property taxes by a total of 22 percent — a reduction of 50 cents per $100 of assessed value — over 10 years.
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