The lure of thousands of jobs in the fledgling Massachusetts gaming industry is powerful in the greater Springfield area, where unemployment remains high. One of the companies competing for the lone casino license available in western Massachusetts is holding a career fair to show off the types of jobs being promised.
MGM Resorts International brought about 30 of its employees in Las Vegas to Springfield this week to spend two days talking about what they do in hotel operations, food and beverage, entertainment, security, finance, and of course ,gaming. After visiting the information tables set up in a large conference room in the city’s convention center, and chatting with some MGM employees, Yvette Morales said she was impressed with the career possibilities at a resort casino.
Morales, who said she’s lived in Springfield all her life, is a college student.
The actual jobs that would come with a resort casino development are several years away from being filled. MGM is not taking applications. Kelley Tucky, MGM Vice President for Public Affairs and Community relations ,said the career fair is intended to let people know what education and experience will be required to be considered for a job.
MGM says the resort casino it wants to build in downtown Springfield will have 3,000 jobs in 400 different classifications. Eighty percent will be fulltime jobs with benefits, according to Tucky. The MGM career fair also had information for local businesses about how to become suppliers of goods and services to the resort casino.
MGM has established a goal of hiring 90 percent of its workforce from the greater Springfield region, with 35 percent of the jobs going to city residents. Penn National Gaming, which is competing for a casino in Springfield, has set a goal of hiring 90 percent of its workforce from Springfield. Penn estimates its casino will have 2,400 jobs.
Mohegan Sun, which is pursuing a casino development in rural Palmer and Hard Rock International, which wants to build a casino on part of the Big E fairgrounds in West Springfield, have also vowed to fill the bulk of their jobs from the local labor pool.
William Ward, the CEO of the Regional Employment Board of Hampden County, said the agency will work with whichever company is awarded the casino license by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission.
The state’s community colleges have formed a consortium to offer casino job training courses.
Springfield’s unemployment rate was 11.8 percent in January, according to the latest figures available from the state labor department. Workforce development studies have found the city’s population lags in education and employable skills when compared to other parts of the state.
Democratic State Rep. Cheryl Coakley-Rivera of Springfield cautions against casinos being viewed as a panacea to the city’s economic woes.
A casino will bring a short-term boom to the construction industry, with thousands of jobs projected. The state’s trades unions have already worked out agreements with the major casino developers.