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Big turnout for East Greenbush casino job fair

Updated: 08/20/2014 10:13 AM
Created: 08/19/2014 11:47 PM WNYT.com
By: Dan Levy

EAST GREENBUSH - More than 400 people turned out on Tuesday night for an area job fair even though most of the jobs likely won't be available for at least another two years.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about the job fair in East Greenbush was that the people who sponsored it, the developers hoping to build the Capital View Casino & Resort in East Greenbush, don't even have a license yet and, in fact, there's no guarantee they'll ever get one.

It's a safe bet not everyone who attended Tuesday's job fair will wind up working at a Capital Region casino, even though everyone there seemed willing and ready to take a chance.

"I would love to be a blackjack dealer," said Seth Reiter, of Wynantskill. "I'm looking to better myself and better my children's life."

Developers are promising more than 1,000 permanent jobs and more than 1,000 construction jobs. What they can't promise -- at least not at this point -- is that they'll even be able to build a casino.

"We have a casino in Saratoga," said Rita Cox, vice president of communications for Saratoga Casino and Raceway. "The way we look at this, this is an important educational process. These jobs are going to be coming to the region. So we hope they come to Capital View, but they're already in Saratoga."

Cox says the job fair isn't about filling out job applications. It's about educating people so that they understand what skills they'll need to work at a casino.

"When ever a casino opens," Cox said, "there's going to be a lot of jobs to be hired and we want to make sure that people, local residents, have the tools and have the experience skills to be able to do those jobs when it happens."

Even when casino developers were at the point where they're looking to ready their job force, anti-casino forces were still relevant, and still boisterous.

"I think (job seekers) are looking for a job that might or might not come true in two years," said Dwight Jenkins, an anti-casino crusader and resident of Thompson Hill, where Capital View developers hope to build.

"I think it's a cruel publicity stunt," Jenkins said of the job fair. "People are probably unemployed down there looking for work. It's not about bringing jobs to East Greenbush, it's not about bringing wealth to East Greenbush, it's about preserving the empire that Saratoga has built. This is nothing but a ruse."

"This job fair is about providing opportunities for people who not just need them but want them," Cox asserted. "No, this is not a ruse."

Jimmy Bass of Rennsselaer, already retired and on Social Security, says he's always dreamed of being a chef at a casino and he came to the job fair looking for opportunity.

"I need something to do and I need money," Bass said.

For Bass, it doesn't matter where the casino is built. The same goes for Kimberly Otis, an instructor at Schenectady County Community College, who figures she's holding a winning hand, no matter where the casino gets built.

"Not only do we offer the casino gaming management degree," Otis said, "we also offer restaurant and hotel management. We offer culinary arts. These are all portions of the casino industry."

Assuming everything else is equal, the odds of East Greenbush getting a casino are 3-to-1 against. Rensselaer, Schenectady and Howe Caverns are also in the casino sweepstakes.

Pleased by the job fair turnout, Cox says she won't rule out another job fair in the future.

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