Monday, Nov. 28, 2005 | 8:14 a.m.
For the first time, Las Vegas' two biggest operators of locals casinos will be using the Internet to hire for a grand opening -- a method that is expected to draw a wider range of interested applicants and process them more quickly and efficiently.
That will help Station Casinos and Coast Casinos as they seek up to 5,000 workers to staff their respective Red Rock and South Coast properties, which are expected to open within three months of each other amid an exceptionally tight job market.
"The Internet gives us an advantage because it allows more people to apply," Station's Vice President of Human Resources Valerie Murzl said.
Station Casinos began accepting online applications for Red Rock last week, a process that will start with applications for three specific departments including the kitchen, internal maintenance and housekeeping.
Jobs in different departments will become available each week.
While the company had previously opened an employment center to process applications, the process will largely be automated for Red Rock, Murzl said.
Station expects to process the vast majority of applicants through its Web site, www.stationcasinos.com. Job seekers without computer access can apply over the phone by calling a hotline, 221-6789, where they can follow a series of voice prompts.
After completing an application, job seekers will receive an appointment for an interview that will take place at an employment center that opens Monday at the Red Rock site.
Coast Casinos is nearly finished hiring the roughly 2,400 people it will need to staff South Coast. More than 25,000 people have so far applied for jobs at the South Strip property.
About 90 percent of the property's applications were processed online -- a dramatic shift from the paper-based world of previous openings, South Coast Human Resources Director Kathy Caudell said.
"It's been really helpful," Caudell said. "It's saved us a lot of time" on the front end and has given managers more time for interviewing the most qualified candidates, she said.
The online process also resulted in a surprising number of applications from beyond Las Vegas, including some people displaced by hurricanes Katrina and Rita, she said.
"We're getting some from Atlantic City but also New York City and Chicago," Caudell said. "There's been more of that than I would have expected. If we only had paper applications, that wouldn't have really been possible."
Coast is also processing paper applications and has held at least five job fairs over the past several weeks. The company has attended job fairs at the Westward Ho casino and will participate in another at the Boardwalk next week. The Westward Ho closed last week and the Boardwalk, just down the Strip, is expected to close Jan. 9.
Nevada's unemployment rate was 3.9 percent in October, down from 4.2 percent in September and 4 percent in October 2004. The rate in Las Vegas was also 3.9 percent, down from 4 percent a year earlier.
"At 3.9 percent, you're not leaving a lot of people on the streets who are blatantly employable," said Jim Shabi, an economist with the Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation. "The people who are educated and have some job skills probably have jobs, leaving the marginal workers behind. It could be difficult to find people."
Employment in the gaming industry finally surpassed pre-Sept. 11 levels in April with the opening of Wynn Las Vegas. The gaming industry in Las Vegas employed about 177,500 people in October, up from 170,300 in September 2001.
Since October 2004, the gaming industry added 10,500 jobs in Las Vegas, a 6.3 percent increase.
The closures of the Westward Ho and Boardwalk, both to make way for new development, are leaving hundreds of potential job seekers.
Station expects a whopping 100,000 people to apply for 2,600 jobs at Red Rock. That's not much less than the more than 110,000 people who applied for jobs at Wynn Las Vegas.
The company is in a unique position when it comes to hiring locals, Murzl said.
"We have a tremendous amount of name recognition in the community," she said. "Our players, our workers and our guests are eating in our restaurants or going to our theaters. Word seems to spread easily and rapidly for our company."
Some people also prefer to work for a locals property rather than a tourist resort because they can develop long-term friendships with repeat customers, Murzl said.
The company's recent recognition in Fortune magazine as one of the "100 best companies to work for" has yielded more interest from applicants nationwide, she added.
About half of Red Rock openings -- roughly 1,300 jobs -- will be made available to Station employees.
"We have a priority to help our work force advance," Station spokeswoman Lori Nelson said.
Some of those applicants are likely to be Station employees who live in the northwest part of the Las Vegas Valley and, for the first time, want to work close to where they live, Nelson said.
Up to 600 employees of Coast Casinos and parent company Boyd Gaming -- some 25 percent of the South Coast work force -- have so far been offered jobs at the new Coast property, Caudell said.
Liz Benston can be reached at 259-4077 or at [email protected]