The odds were even longer than usual inside one Atlantic City casino Wednesday morning. But that didn't deter more than 1,300 hopefuls from lining up before the sun rose and standing in a queue that wrapped around the inside of the building.
They weren't at the Golden Nugget Atlantic City to gamble. They were betting that they could land one of the 50 jobs the casino planned to fill at what it called an ``emergency jobs fair.''
Tom Pohlman, the casino's general manager, said the Golden Nugget's business has picked up significantly over the last month, due in part to the closing of the Atlantic Club Casino Hotel on Jan. 13. But another part of the reason for the hiring is that the casino had cut back on staff during the slow winter months.
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Many of its former customers have gravitated to the Golden Nugget, which is similar in size and which has aggressively courted the now-closed casino's patrons and employees. Pohlman said several thousand former Atlantic Club customers have gotten players' club cards at his casino since the shutdown.
"It's important to us to maintain a certain standard of customer service, and we need to bring in immediate help,'' he said. ``It's unfortunate to see how many people are here because that means a lot of people in Atlantic City are out of a job. But there are great candidates here, and we can pick the best of the best.''
The casino had advertised it was hiring 50 people in the two-day job fair that runs through Thursday, but Pohlman said it will probably add 100 for this weekend, with at least 50 of them being new dealers. Those who aren't hired this week will have their applications considered for summer seasonal work.
Many former Atlantic Club workers were among those seeking jobs at the Golden Nugget. Pat Van Woeart, a longtime coffee shop worker at the Atlantic Club, was one of 1,600 people who lost jobs when it closed.
"It's been terrible,'' she said of the past month of unemployment. "I've applied everywhere that will take applications, but nobody is hiring. With food prices going up, even milk is more expensive. It's been really tough.
"These are all dedicated people and we're not used to being out of a job,'' she said. "My health benefits are expiring. I need a job and I need it now.''
Ronnie Martinez, a former security guard at the Atlantic Club, was also hoping to catch on at the Golden Nugget.
"It's been tough feeding my family,'' he said. "I hope I get hired here. I have a good work record.''
The first applicant got in line at 3:30 a.m. By the time the doors to interview rooms swung open at 10 a.m., more than 600 people were in the queue. And applicants kept coming, snaking around an upper floor of the casino in slowly moving lines.
Potential dealers were given immediate auditions at a card table inside a casino ballroom.
Tina Smith, an employment manager, said seven people had been hired as of 10:30 a.m. Departments like housekeeping and security were making on-the-spot hires, while dealers would be evaluated over the two-day fair and decisions made late Thursday.
The casino was overwhelmed by the response, and had to turn away some applicants when the lines got too long. They encouraged those who did not get a personal interview to apply online, particularly those willing to relocate to a new casino the company is opening in Lake Charles, La. at the end of this year.
Some of the applicants tell NBC10 they were told to apply online because there were too many people.
"I'm a seasoned, and experienced cook," said Lamont Brown. "I got here and got in line and then they shut everything down. They said they had 500 people upstairs and we could come back tomorrow."
A spokesperson for the Golden Nugget sent a statement to NBC10 explaining the situation.
"Unfortunately, we were inundated by the more than 1300 applicants that showed up for a handful of positions and had to close the line," the spokesperson wrote. "But all the applicants are encouraged to fill out an application online."
The job fair continues on Thursday. Doors are open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.