Will Labor Shortages Compromise Casino Operations?

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A staff member shuffles chips at a roulette table at the Arkin Colony Hotel & Casino. Roy Issa / AFP

Despite soaring inflation and gas prices, there is a labor shortage and it is affecting virtually every business in this country including the gaming industry.

But will it derail plans for new casinos and delay the expansion of existing properties?

Robots in the Future?

Employing robots instead of people has already happened in the service and gaming industry. They can be programmed to execute a variety of tasks from security surveillance to dispensing hand towels. They don’t need a vacation and they work cheaply. It’s a resource more and more businesses are turning to because the alternative is begging humans to work for increasingly higher wages.

A Mountain View, California company named Knightscope recently announced they had signed up a Las Vegas client to utilize their robots for security purposes. A competitor of Knightscope’s, Robotic Assistance Devices (RAD), notified the media they too had inked a casino to use their services and revealed the name – the Red Hawk Casino in Placerville, California.

RAD has produced a 700-pound security robot that will patrol the properties it is programmed to protect but also will interact with people and send the data back to the humans monitoring the interactions.

On its website, RAD says, “Why will casinos turn to ROAMEO to supplement their human guard patrols? Because ROAMEO can do a better job, for less money, addressing the diverse security challenges posed by the casino environment.”

An Exception to the Rule?

The reason we see more and more companies turning to these exotic alternatives is the dearth of people who are willing to work for a living. Many of the casinos that are planning a grand opening or trying to expand to grow their businesses are finding staffing a real concern.

However, there is a property being constructed at this very moment that offers hope that all is not lost and Americans do want to get back to work. Rivers Casino Portsmouth is a $300 million property being built with a grand opening scheduled for next year.

Staffing all areas of the property will be difficult, but according to the casino’s Human Resources Vice President, Johnee Ingram, the hiring hurdles will be challenging but not overwhelming. She bases her assessment on the activity thus far at job fairs and the tenor of the meetings they have had with prospective employees.

“We have 1.300 jobs that we have to fill by the end of this year before opening,” Ingram said. “Every industry is being affected by this workforce shortage post-COVID. We’re all affected by it, but I don’t see it as a big issue,” said Ingram.

Scouting Locally for Talent

Hospitality Vice President Karl Waitner is scouring the local labor pool for management positions and he shares Ingram’s optimism.

“To be honest with you, I think some departments will fare better than others in regards to finding enough staff,” Waitner said. “That might be a challenge at first, but as we start moving on, I think that we’re going to get enough excitement in the area, and I think we’re going to do just fine.”

As with most things, the economy is cyclical and perhaps we have already seen the worst of it. There will be more and more gaming industry positions opening with the explosion of online gambling and new casinos being built despite an uncertain economy.

And although we will undoubtedly witness an increasing number of bots taking these jobs, we can take solace in the fact that there are some things only humans can do…at least for now.