On-the-Job: HR Director

Janie Libby was the Director of Human Resources for Boyd’s Gaming Corporation, and rose to the position of VP of HR at Dover Downs Hotel & Casino. She has been in the gaming industry since 1980 and calls herself “a total success story.” Janie started out as a human resources interviewer with a casino in Atlantic City and has been on a roll ever since. She shares some of her insights on what it takes to win at the casino employment game.

Gambling is catching on like wildfire. I’m not sure what’s causing this tremendous growth in the industry, but basically we are responding to the desire of the American public by building these new casinos.

People want gaming. I don’t know if people have more disposable income or what. But it is true that there’s a shift in perception.

At our company, the casinos are truly entertainment resort destinations. We have the shows and the restaurants and everything else that goes along with it, not just gambling. This is a fabulous company to work for. They really care about their employees. They “walk the talk” if you will.

I actually have a degree in social work. After college I spent about seven years working with teenagers as a social worker, but I got burned out. I thought to myself, “What else can I do?” and a friend actually suggested that I go to Atlantic City, which was about two hours’ drive from where I was. So I packed my things and took off. I spent a little bit of time knocking around, but then I got a job for a casino property there doing interviewing. Getting into the gaming industry is great for people who want a change, and the opportunities for advancement are endless.

What I look for when making hiring decisions is customer service experience. I need people who understand basic customer service. I also look at whether an applicant has what I call a stable work history. If you are a college student or just graduated, having a brief employment history with several different employers is not necessarily bad. For college people it’s understandable. But as a general rule I like to see at least a year with one employer in a three-year period. I’m also interested in why an applicant left his or her previous jobs. We take reasons for leaving previous jobs very seriously. And we very seriously look at work history.

Before you can deal for us, you have to pass our audition. Even if you have experience dealing at other places, we still will put you through an audition. We also test people for other technical, casino-related positions.

For management positions you usually need prior experience, and you get that by working your way up, typically from the casino floor. There are some areas of the hotel business that will employ people with transferable skills that come from other jobs but can be used in a new position. Restaurant, beverage service, hotel, and maintenance all have positions that are entry-level, open to people who can prove they have transferable skills. Also if you want to be, say, a slot technician, prior experience with electronic repair is very helpful. Although there is very little turnover in that department. People who work as slot techs really, really like their jobs.

The area with the most job openings is slot change attendants. This position seems to have the highest turnover, although I’m not surprised. It’s a hard job. You’re on your feet all day, usually pushing a cart full of change. Attendants really are on the frontlines, but it’s hard because they can only hand out change. They can’t fix the machines when they jam. They aren’t qualified to open them up. A person working as slot change attendant needs to be even -tempered, yet understand the urgency to get things fixed when there’s a problem.

All in all, this is a fascinating industry to work in. It’s different everyday. I absolutely love my job. One tip I have is that in this business you’ve got to be mobile. You’ve got to be willing to relocate. If you can do that, there are all kinds of opportunities. Employers look at what you can do for them. If you are willing to put in 100 percent and say, “What else can I do?” then the sky’s the limit.

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