Casino jobs expo a draw

Baltimore Sun

The company hoping to bring slots to Arundel Mills mall held a career fair Thursday that was heavy on lobbying for the not-yet-approved project, asking prospective job-seekers to sign postcards addressed to the Anne Arundel County Council in support of the casino.

Baltimore-based Cordish Cos., which has proposed a 4,750-machine slots parlor on a parking lot adjacent to the shopping center, sponsored the career and vendor expo at the mall, saying 2,500 workers would be needed for the construction of the casino, and 1,500 permanent jobs would be created.

The seven-member County Council, which is divided on the proposal and has debated it for months, is set to vote on the zoning changes needed for the Cordish proposal and an alternative early next month. A state commission must also grant approval for a license.

Zed Smith, director of asset management at Cordish, said the company is "pretty confident" it will receive state approval.

"The reality is, there's a vote before the County Council," said Smith, who attended the expo. "You have people here that are desperate for jobs, and they need to be heard."

Otis James owns JBC Inc., which does construction and electrical work. He filled out an application, saying his company has felt the effects of the sour economy.

"I thought it would be a good opportunity for me," said James of West Baltimore. "There's a lot of high-powered people here."

Representatives from Anne Arundel Community College and the Anne Arundel Workforce Development Corp. also attended. Cordish officials said the partnership will be key to training workers for specialized jobs like slot machine maintenance. Cordish also said it plans to use local subcontractors and will spend up to $60 million annually on local vendors in areas including marketing, security and food.

Greg Dhaene, director of security at Cordish's Indiana casino, manned a table for security workers. Dhaene said the turnout was "excellent" and applicants arrived "pretty much nonstop."

Dhaene told a group of five prospective applicants who crowded his table that "90 percent of the job is customer service."

That sounded good to Robert Neal, who worked at the Baltimore City Correctional Center and the now-closed House of Corrections in Jessup before retiring in 2006.

"I'd love to work at this casino, where it's not so tense and [there would not be] a lot of death and mayhem," said Neal, 57, who added that he hoped the council would approve the necessary zoning.

Matthew Booher came looking for "any position," saying he would be excited to work at a casino.

"I've never been to one," said Booher, 26. "I have friends that drive to New Jersey and Dover. We might as well have one here. I don't see nothing wrong with it."

Jerrell Johnson, who works in moving and hauling, came to the mall dressed for an interview and was disappointed that representatives were only accepting applications and resumes.

"I smile a lot," said Johnson, 29, of Glen Burnie. "Any job like that - a host - when smiling is required, I'm outstanding."

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