Client: Rivers Casino

Source: Chicago Tribune 

Rivers Casino in Des Plaines is looking for a few hundred good card dealers.

The state’s busiest casino has begun an expansion that will nearly double the number of gaming positions, and needs to hire 400 employees — including 250 dealers — by next spring.

Like many post-pandemic business, Rivers has been caught short-handed after reopening to full capacity on June 11, and doesn’t have enough dealers to meet a surge in pent-up gambling demand this month.

“There’s a tough labor market out there,” said Corey Wise, general manager of Rivers Casino. “We have over 100 positions open right now.”

The casino is hosting a dealer job fair Thursday to fill open positions and build the roster for expansion, when Rivers will roll out 800 new gaming positions, including a 22-table poker room.

Dealers make $55,000 or more in the first year, while the casino bumped all non-tipped employees up to a minimum of $15 per hour earlier this month, Wise said.

Rivers broke ground in February on a 78,000-square-foot expansion that will add a ballroom, a restaurant and increase the number of gaming positions from 1,200 to 2,000 — the most allowed under the state’s sweeping 2019 gambling expansion bill.

To accommodate the expansion, Rivers was granted the state’s first land-based casino license by the Illinois Gaming Board. That enabled the facility to move its gambling operation beyond the shallow pool of water it was built over to qualify as a riverboat when it launched in 2011.

The construction is scheduled to be completed in two phases, with the first adding about 200 slot machines and 30 table games, and the second adding another 300 slots, the poker room and a ballroom, Wise said.

A garage expansion has already been completed.

Business has been brisk at Rivers this year, even before the capacity restrictions were lifted. In May, Rivers generated $41.4 million in adjusted gross receipts — the money kept after paying out winnings — topping its pre-COVID-19 totals of $39.5 million in May 2019.

Last year, Illinois casino operations were suspended from March through June as the COVID-19 pandemic prompted a statewide stay-at-home order for everything but essential businesses. The state’s 10 casinos reopened in July at limited capacity, but were shut down again in November as the pandemic flared up.

Rivers reopened with capacity restrictions in January and went to 100% capacity June 11, when the state entered Phase 5 of its pandemic reopening plan.

While regular players were generally able to get in this year despite capacity restrictions, the reopening is luring a broader customer base back to the casino, Wise said.

“As people get more comfortable and restrictions have been lifted we have seen an uptick in admissions,” Wise said. “Slowly but surely, we’re building momentum.”

The casino has 1,350 employees — about 100 less than before the pandemic hit — and is trying to staff up to 1,750 employees before the expansion is complete, Wise said.

The job fair takes place from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday at the Hyatt Rosemont. Applicants will go through an interview process for acceptance into the casino’s upcoming dealer school, which begins July 6.