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Southern California Casinos Are Struggling To Find Workers | $1,500 Incentives

Senior Reporter

Before the pandemic got serious in the US, many people were afraid they would struggle to keep a roof over their heads due to the coronavirus outbreak job losses. Surprisingly enough, this April at least 230 talent executives reported overwhelming labor shortages in facilities that were shut down during the COVID-19 lockdown. The businesses are picking back up, but are facing an unusual problem - owners are having trouble filling the positions. California casinos come up with creative ways to lure in new employees, offering generous bribes to those willing to work at their facilities.

Southern California casinos are struggling to find workers | $1,500 incentives
Image: pixabay.com

The real reason behind labor shortages

While some may argue that labor shortages are caused by people’s fear of contracting a deadly virus, there is a much is a simpler explanation to the crisis - stimulus checks and unemployment funds. The IRS sent out three Economic Impact Payments to eligible Americans in the past two years,  $1,200 in April, $600 in December, and $1,400 in March. That, of course, wasn’t nearly enough to cover the cost of living for Americans.

Unemployment benefits also available became available to those who were laid off, furloughed, or fired due to no fault of their own. In April, the unemployment rate hit 14.7%, and from mid-March to the end of June, almost 49 million filed for the benefits. Despite the lifted restrictions and new job openings, many chose not to return to work or apply to new positions. Today, at least 15.3 million Americans are still receiving worker’s compensations of $350 - $650 per week.

Financial support from the government made it easy to kick back and enjoy “free money” instead of working. It’s possible that a portion of the unemployed individuals is genuinely concerned for their health. Still, it’s difficult to imagine that a $1,400+ worth of monthly payments won’t convince people there’s no need to return to work.

Disproportionate bribes followed by a demanding hiring process

Southern California casinos are now dealing with the aftermath of furloughed employees who refuse to return to their position after lifted restrictions. Business is booming, customers are flooding the facilities, and the rejuvenated owners are expanding due to growing demand, but companies are short-staffed.

San Manuel Casino is among the struggling companies. A completed $ 550 million business expansion is awaiting its 2,500 additional employees by the end of the year. Cooks, cashiers, janitors, groundskeepers, and other staff positions are required to properly run the new gaming space, 24-hour restaurants, fine dining, stores, as well as 432 hotel rooms.

“We’re on track with this unique environment, but it’s more difficult to fill an entry-level position...The market is tight.”  Jasmine Takeshita, director of talent acquisition at Saint-Manuel, explains.

San Manuel Casino is struggling to reach the labor quota, so they came up with an alternative plan in hopes of attracting more workers. A bribe, so to say. New staff will be offered a $1,000 welcome bonus, $300 bonus for entry-level employees, and a $1,500 “gift” for higher-level positions. Additionally, the newly-hired team will receive paid meals on the clock, insurance coverages, access to a 401 (K) retirement program, tuition refunds, and other perks.

The time is ticking, and the lengthy screening process for new employees gives the hiring staff even less time to accomplish this mission. The screening process alone can take several weeks, and Cary Berner, vice president of human resources at Pechanga, is worried about the demanding time crunch.

“I have a lot of office work...Our background checks go back 15 years, but most companies go back 10 years. We also do fingerprints and pre-employment drug tests. Once that’s cleared, new employees We have set up a Game Rating and Administration Committee reservation to issue badges to“, Berner explains.

It’s safe to say that San Manuel Casino owners are in full panic mode, as this kind of treatment was unheard of before the pandemic - especially for individuals with brand-new position titles. San Manuel, as well as other casinos with suchlike incentive plans, will be at a disadvantage. Not only financially, but the companies are creating a standard that may be difficult to backpedal in the future. Not to mention, this is also an unbalanced advantage that excludes existing employees who have been loyal throughout the volatile pandemic events.

More California casinos offering hiring bribes

Other desperate companies like the Harrah’s Resort Southern California casino add extra perks to draw in potential employees. Harrah’s Resort Southern California casino is looking to hire 120 staff members and offer a $15-$25 hourly rate depending on the position.

A generous free two-night stay at the resort for those who stay on the job for at least 90 days - that ought to do it. Refreshments, luxury hotel room stay, bonuses ranging from $1,000 - $3,000 serve as attractive bait, to say the least. The managers are confident this plan will encourage people to apply,

“The two-night stay incentive allows future employees to pursue their careers on the“ playful side ”to achieve the right work-life balance. This is what we are very passionate about here at Harras.“

Spotlight 29 Casino also offers a $500 sign-on bonus and $200 to those who make it through 90 days of work, and $300 after 180 days on the job. Quite a stretch, but desperate situations require desperate measures.

Dealing with the aftermath of overripe incentives

Companies with labor shortages are in a tough position, as a lack of employees can result in revenue and customer losses. However, job incentives can result in aftermath much more unpleasant than losing money.

Incentive pay and employment bribery are proven to create a sense of entitlement among workers and exaggerated expectations that could lead to a decline in performance if they are not met. The initial hype will likely dissipate with time and the lack of motivation among employees will be difficult to backpedal without additional incentives.

More importantly, the unfair advantage from such companies is disrespectful to pre-existing employees who don’t receive the “new staff bonus”. Many of the workers in the mentioned California casinos have been loyal to their companies before the pandemic lockdown hit and faithfully returned to their position once it ended. Begging people to come work, and distributing disproportionate amounts of money to freshly-hired staff instead of rewarding the current, dedicated staff, is nothing short of a slap in the face.

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