Saturday, August 1, 2009

Where have all the casino job seekers gone?

SINGAPORE, July 31 — Despite the state of the economy and the huge turnout at job fairs of late, gaming positions at Marina Bay Sands (MBS) are going a-begging. The integrated resort (IR) is struggling to fill the 4,500 places it has for croupiers, cashiers and slot attendants, among others.

It has hired only about 2,000 Singaporeans so far, and says it will have a last go at hiring here during a job fair to be held at Suntec Singapore this weekend.
If it fails to fill the positions, it will be forced to look to foreign shores, the IR's senior vice-president of casino operations Ken Davie said yesterday.
He said the toughest position to fill is that of croupier, a job for which the minimum qualifications are being above 21 years old, having manual dexterity, customer service and simple arithmetic skills, and no colour-blindness.

The starting pay is S$1,800 (RM4,320) before tips. Even training is provided by the company. Those with a talent for the job can rise to the position of shift manager, earning up to S$11,000 a month.

Other gaming jobs have similar salaries and career paths.
And yet, there are no takers. Davie said this is the first time that the Las Vegas-based group has had so much trouble filling gaming positions. It had no problem at its home base or its Macau outfit.Th e casino veteran said yesterday: “We felt we should have been able to fill the positions by now.”

He said MBS received thousands of applications for the 10,000 jobs on offer, but most were for other openings, such as waiters, marketing positions and housekeeping. Some of those who did apply for gaming jobs were not serious about taking up the positions available.

The other IR, Resorts World at Sentosa, said it did not face such a problem and had started hiring earlier, according to its spokesman. However, unlike MBS, which is trying to fill all its casino positions with Singaporeans, about 30 per cent of the Sentosa IR's hires for the dealer post so far are foreigners.

Davie put MBS’s hiring difficulties down to the fact that gaming is a new industry here and people may feel some trepidation about taking a job they know little about.
They may also have concerns about career progression, he said. Halimah Yacob, the deputy secretary of the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), agreed, saying that perhaps Singaporeans are scared of trying something new. There might also be some kind of stigma attached to working in a casino, she said.

Ang Hin Kee, chief executive officer of NTUC's Employment and Employability Institute, which is partnering MBS to screen Singaporeans for positions, said that many people have a misconception that the job requires skill and prior experience.
The idea of shift work is also less than appealing to some, he said.

Other analysts say the root of Singaporeans' reluctance to take gaming jobs could be down to pay: One industry insider said MBS’s dealers will get less than those in Macau, who get around S$2,300 before tips.

Over the years, some jobs here have had to be redesigned to attract Singaporeans, who have shunned them for pay, prestige or other reasons. These jobs include work involving long, irregular hours, manual jobs, or having to deal with difficult customers.

The recession has taken a heavy toll on employment here. The government's most recent labour market report showed that total employment fell by 6,200 in the first quarter of this year — the first quarterly contraction in nearly six years. Manpower Minister Gan Kim Yong has said he does not expect a let-up in the jobless rate, which currently stands at 3.3 per cent.

For gaming analyst Jonathan Galaviz, a partner at tourism and gaming consultancy firm Globalysis, the low take-up rate for MBS’s gaming positions is puzzling.
He said more IRs will be coming up in the region soon, and Singaporeans should strike while the iron is hot. “This will provide significant career opportunities over the next decade,” he said. — The Straits Times


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