In my previous article I wrote about what poker players can expect once Kansas Star Casino is built south of Wichita. Now that Kansas Star Casino is accepting employment applications through their website, I think the timing is right to supply potential applicants with some idea of what to expect as an employee. Prior to the Kansas Lottery Gaming Review Board’s decision last December I wrote a series of articles regarding Peninsula Gaming, LC, and Global Gaming Solutions, LC, and among the issues I raised regarded how employees were treated. And that issue was one of the many reasons I felt Peninsula was the best choice to build and manage the state owned casino. This past December, as part of my research, I had the opportunity to conduct a phone interview with Bill Sutton, Director of Table Games at Peninsula Gaming’s Diamond Jo Worth Casino, Northwood, Iowa. Based upon what Mr. Sutton shared with me regarding how poker players are taken care of at the Diamond Jo Worth poker room I think it reasonable that Wichita regional players can expect similar treatment. I anticipate potential employees can expect similar treatment as those who work for the Diamond Jo Worth enjoy. What I have to share comes from the same phone interview, but I want to start by providing some initial math in terms of what it could cost an employee to drive to work at the casino from Wichita.
I fully suspect the majority of the casino’s employees will be commuting from the city of Wichita to the casino located at Exit 33 in Mulvane. At the Kansas Lottery Gaming Review Board’s December 1, 2010, meeting in Topeka, Dr. William Eadington from the University of Nevada-Reno presented about the economic dimensions of expanded gaming in south central Kansas. One significant issue he raised was the extra cost that would be incurred for gamblers to drive the extra 9 mile distance to Wellington from Wichita rather than Mulvane. He quantified that given a gambler driving to Wellington 4 times per month it would cost a gambler an extra 20 hours per year in driving time or 350 miles per year. At 50 cents per mile transportation cost he estimated it would cost $675 per year in gas, maintenance, and vehicle wear and tear. Given 48 trips per year, it would cost an employee approximately $14 extra per trip to drive to Wellington versus Mulvane. He concluded that the extra cost could influence gamblers to make fewer trips.
Now, lets assume instead of a gambler we have an employee driving approximately 12 miles from southern Wichita 4 times per week, 50 weeks per year. All told, 200 round trips per year, 2,400 miles minimum, nearly 7 times the distance above. That extra cost for employees to commute from Wichita amounts to over $4,700. Netting $10 per hour working say 35 hours per week, it will take nearly 13.5 weeks to recoup commuting costs. Given Kansas’ 2009 projected per capita income being listed at $37,916 by the Kansas Statistical Abstract http://www.ipsr.ku.edu/ksdata/ksah/income/, at the very minimum a casino employee will spend over 10 percent of their gross income just commuting that 12 mile distance.
Given those costs, it is important to learn what Kansas Star Casino does to attract and retain good employees. Mr. Sutton supplied me with what Diamond Jo employees enjoy.
The first thing Mr. Sutton shared with me is that at the Diamond Jo Worth, employees typically commute 25 miles to work and are viewed as the company’s most valuable asset. With that regard, the company uses a variety of strategies to attract and retain them. No cost in-house training is one of the most important methods offered. For instance, table game trainees will undergo 12-14 weeks of training. The company also partners with a local community college to offer a 8-12 week leadership school to 20 of their best candidates. These candidates include not only employees who demonstrate leadership potential but also those recently hired into leadership positions.
Employees are also offered incentives. Mr. Sutton estimated $350 per employee is spent annually on food. Employees also receive a Christmas bonus, a turkey at Thanksgiving, a Christmas party, and quarterly employee events.
Another useful thing to note, the Diamond Jo did not take part in cutting staff during the economic downturn. Hours may have been reduced but employees were retained.
At the casino itself Peninsula estimates, in its executive summary, it will employ 419 FTE people during Phase 1a of the project, 553 at the end of Phase 1b, and 622 FTEs at end of Phase 2. Kansas Star Casino is anticipated to open March, 2012.