The process of bringing big-name stores, companies and vendors into the city has proven difficult for many businesses. It is a gamble and often requires a lot of community outreach.
So when it was announced that an operator had finally been selected for the city’s first casino, right here in Queens, administrators of what would become Resorts World Casino New York City knew they had to make it about the community.
“From the moment we started the opening of this facility, we wanted to work closely with the community and bring jobs to Queens,” Stefan Friedman, a spokesman for Resorts World, said.
The all-electronic gaming casino, which celebrated its one-year anniversary last fall, sits right next to the Aqueduct Race Track in Ozone Park and features two full floors of games and one for concerts and entertainment.
Originally, Resorts World was projected to bring in 800 permanent jobs but now, over 1,700 people work for the casino, 1,100 of whom are from Queens and 30 percent of whom are minorities or women. In 2011, it created more jobs than any other company in the entire state.
“When we would go to Community Board 10 meetings, people were clear not only that they wanted jobs, they wanted local jobs,” Friedman said. “We have the most talented workforce, not just in Queens but in the entire city.”
In addition to working with the community board, Friedman and Resorts World administrators worked with the local precinct as well.
“We maintained active and open communication with CB 10 and have worked hand in hand with the 106th Precinct, and since the casino has been open, we’ve noticed that crime has started to come down. Understanding that we are in the community and not an entity onto ourselves is of the utmost importance.”
According to the Resorts World website, by October 2012, 134 employees had been promoted within the first ten months of operations. Hundreds of others were accommodated with transfers to other areas where they wished to build their careers.
“We had 50,000 applications for these jobs,” Friedman said. “Many were from Ozone Park in particular and that’s great because it’s important to hire in the community because people are excited to work.”
Another way the casino was able to support the community was providing shelter for those who were affected by Superstorm Sandy.
“We had FEMA set up their headquarters here and we housed 1,000 people,” said Michelle Stoddart, director of public relations and community development for Resorts World. “But it wasn’t just those people who needed help. We opened our doors because people needed a place where they could go and relax, regroup and gather their thoughts. Just having a place to come and get warm and charge your phone was beneficial for these people.”
Stoddart added that many of the Resorts World employees felt the wrath of the storm and that there were a few who slept on cots on the top floor of the casino.
“We have an incredible staff and we think it’s important to recognize exceptional work performances,” she said. “Having management there to encourage the employees and just say ‘thank you’ when you see a staff member who is going above and beyond means a lot. We celebrate all of the major holidays together and we try to do something special when someone has a birthday. All of these things help build a stronger staff.”
Employees at Resorts World have an air about them that makes guests feel welcome. From staffers at the 10 restaurants, one of which the Daily News claims serves the best dim sum in the city, to the security guards, guests are greeted with a smile.
“We try to make this a place where people feel comfortable,” Stoddart said. “There may be guests who are sad because they lost money or something so it’s important for the staff to be friendly and make the experience as positive as it can be.”
Currently, there is legislation pending in Albany that would allow live table games at select locations in the state but not at Resorts World. However, Friedman said that the company is more concerned right now with maintaining a strong relationship with the neighborhood.
“The people in the community who we work with every day have all been wonderful partners,” he said. “If you do the right thing by the community you’re in, you’re going to well as a business.”