By Steve Mosco
The city’s first casino is defending its employment numbers after accusations by civic groups that the company did not hire enough employees from Queens.
Officials at Resorts World Casino at the Aqueduct Racetrack in South Ozone Park announced last week it promoted 134 employees within the first 10 months of operation, while accommodating hundreds of others with transfers to other departments.
“These latest promotion numbers reflect the opportunity our facility has provided for employees to launch successful careers,” said Michael Speller, president of the casino. “We have always believed our staff is beginning not just another job, but a career — and we are looking forward to the continued growth of our skilled and diverse local workforce for years to come.”
Prior to this announcement, the casino received criticism last month after reports said the South Ozone Park facility employs 60 percent of its staff from Queens — 10 percent lower than the company had promised to hire. But representatives from the casino said the number of actual jobs given to residents has increased.
Resorts World originally estimated residents would get close to 70 percent of the 850 jobs created from the casino. But Patrick Jenkins, a representative with Resorts World, said the total number of employees increased to 1,750 after the facility expanded and added several more food and beverage outlets. He said there are more than 1,100 borough residents working at the casino — more than the promised 60 percent.
Eric Rodriguez, a South Ozone Park resident who has worked at the casino since its opening, said the facility has presented him with new, expanded opportunities.
“Resorts World Casino has afforded me with the start to what will be a successful and challenging career here at the facility,” said Rodriguez, who has been promoted twice and is now the manager at RW Prime restaurant. “I have gained a great deal of invaluable experience here at Resorts World, which will lead to continued success throughout the rest of my career.”
But not everyone is happy with the casino’s employment numbers. Albert Baldeo, a community advocate for southern Queens, said the casino is not giving residents a proportionate share of high-ranking management jobs.
Baldeo also said Resorts World promised to give 1 percent of its net profits to area nonprofit and service organizations such as senior, community and youth centers, religious and cultural organizations, historical societies, block associations, veterans groups and development corporations.
“We are asking them to keep their promises,” said Baldeo. “They came into this community, and we want them to be successful. Now that they are successful, we want to see it on the streets of our community.”
Baldeo said numerous businesses on Rockaway Blvd., within walking distance of the casino, are shuttered, making the neighborhood look like a “shantytown.”
“I’m not blaming Resorts World for the state of the neighborhood, but there is sufficient evidence here that the community needs help,” he said. “The area is struggling with high foreclosures and unemployment — there are 300,000 residents impacted here.”
Reach reporter Steve Mosco by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4546.