“We want to be neighbors. You and the city will be proud of the casino,” said Horseshoe Baltimore General Manager (and soon-to-be Federal Hill resident) Chad Barnhill at the South Baltimore Neighborhood Association meeting earlier this week. A packed crowd that featured some of the biggest decision makers in South Baltimore, including members of the Maryland Senate and House of Representatives, representatives from the Baltimore City Council, media, local business owners and developers as well as many area residents, were in attendance.
Site preparation is about to begin in South Baltimore on Russell St. for the construction of a new $400 million Horseshoe casino – the high-end casino brand of Caesars Entertainment. The land will be ready for construction in the second quarter of 2013 with a projected opening in 2014. The project will create 2,000 construction jobs and the final product is being described as “ritzy and upscale, but also casual.” The project will include a 4,000 car garage, a gaming floor, restaurants, a World Series of Poker room, and a large events space.
Once completed, Horseshoe Baltimore will employ 1,700 people, a 500-employee increase with the passing of Question 7 which legalized table games for all Maryland casinos. The hiring process for these positions will begin 12-16 weeks out from the opening of the casino in 2014. ”We are working with the Mayors Office of Employee Development about the hiring process in an effort to hire as many people from the area as possible,” said Barnhill. The jobs will range from minimum wage to high-end careers, with both full- and part-time positions available.
The meeting took place at the South Baltimore Learning Center and SBNA resident Bill Romani asked, “Since we are in a learning center, are there any skills that people can learn to better prepare themselves for these positions?” Barnhill replied, “There are very few prior skills needed to work here, we hire on attitude. We want people who are going to bring a great attitude to Horseshoe every day. We’ll prepare them for our positions with our training program, but those interested in being cards dealers must possess basic math skills.”
Regarding employment, Caesars has a Hero Program, which requires their employees to collectively donate more than 130,000 hours of time each year to the local community. In addition to this community support, it is being projected that the casino will provide more than $20 million per year in Local Impact Funds by 2017 and the funds will begin in the fiscal budget of 2015. Those funds will be appropriated by the Mayor after recommendations by a Local Development Council which will be comprised of seven members of the adjacent communities, three area politicians, four local business owners or institution representatives, and one representative from Caesars.
That money must be spent in the area and neighborhoods immediately surrounding Horseshoe. ”We were told we were a very tough negotiator, which assured us this whole process was worth it,” said Kim Clark of the Baltimore Development Corporation The Pimlico area will also get approximately $10 million per year in impact funds which is funded by each Maryland casino, completely separate from the impact funds to South Baltimore.
Crime is always a concern when adding a casino to the area and it was certainly one of the questions asked during the meeting. ”We have more than 50 properties throughout the country, not a single one of them seen an increase in crime. We have already met with the Police Commissioner to start conversations about how to make the area as safe as possible,” said Barnhill. And as far as social problems that gambling can bring, “Problem gamblers, we don’t want them. This is a place for entertainment, not a place for people with gambling problems,” said Barnhill.
Lastly, it was also noted in the meeting that Horseshoe Baltimore will not include a hotel component. ”This city has some great hotels and we plan to partner with many of them and provide transportation.”