Casinos and the rest of the hospitality industry have been encountering difficulties filling open positions while rebounding from COVID cutbacks, and the Rivers Casinos in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia have a new strategy to address it: pay more.
The sister casinos owned by Rush Street Gaming announced Friday morning that they have just raised their minimum wage to $15 an hour for all non-tipped employees. The wage applies to both new and existing employees in positions such as security, surveillance, cashier work, and cleaning, rather than dealers and food and beverage servers who earn much of their income from tips.
“We believe that paying a living wage is more than a recruitment strategy — it’s the right thing to do,” said Rush Street CEO Greg Carlin in a press release.
The new base pay is effective for part-time as well as full-time employees, said Bud Green, assistant general manager of Rivers Casino Pittsburgh. The minimum wage by law in Pennsylvania, at $7.25 per hour, is lower than in many nearby states. Green said it was not possible to provide a specific answer for how close to $15 the prior pay levels had been for non-tipped workers.
“It depends on their experience and the position,” he said, adding that the new announcement was already being well-received by employees. About 400 of the 1,300 individuals currently employed at Rivers Pittsburgh are in non-tipped positions, as are about 200 of the 1,200 employees at Rivers Philadelphia.
Everyone has the issue, some get creative
The onslaught of the COVID pandemic last year rocked employment across Pennsylvania’s gaming industry, which had employed nearly 17,000 individuals beforehand. As of June 30, 2020, as casinos began emerging from shutdowns, the number was fewer than 11,000.
They have since returned additional workers as various restrictions on their operations have lifted, but they are still not near prior levels. At one time, the two Rivers Casinos reported having 3,372 team members, rather than the roughly 2,500 now.
The reductions at casinos are from a combination of still not returning to their full operations and the challenge in finding willing employees, who must also have a background suitable for being licensed by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board.
“It doesn’t matter where you are in the state or country — everyone is having the same issue with hiring,” Kathy McCracken, general manager of Wind Creek Bethlehem, told Penn Bets recently.
Various casinos have been advertising widely for open positions, holding job fairs, and getting still more creative. At Lady Luck Nemacolin in Fayette County, current employees already receive bonuses when credited for referring new workers to the casino, but now it is extending that to patrons as well, offering them perks such as free play for recruiting employees.
Green said he could not cite the number of jobs immediately open that Rivers Pittsburgh is trying to fill, but he said there is a definite need for dealers and the casino is assisting that by offering to pay their training costs. Individuals who take the necessary course work at Community College of Allegheny County and are hired by the casino will have their tuition covered.
He said full-time dealers already average first-year income of $45,000 to $50,000, plus benefits, so their base pay has not been immediately adjusted while the Rivers Casinos focus on raising the income of non-tipped employees.