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Casino backers tout jobs with fair

Whether or not you've made up your mind about allowing casinos in Florida, you've probably heard one of the biggest arguments used by backers of Proposition 8: jobs.

Proponents of the amendment on the Nov. 8 ballot say casinos could create 10,000 jobs for the Tampa Bay area and pump millions of dollars into the economy. They say they'll explain how everyone from construction workers to room reservation clerks can get in on the action.

A casino job and business fair, sponsored by Proposition for Limited Casinos, will take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. today at the Tampa Convention Center. Admission is free.

About 60 employees from casinos around the country will answer questions about employment, benefits and necessary job skills, as well as how local businesses can benefit from the casino industry.

"It's absolutely educational," said Kelley Tucky, employee services manager at the Mirage Hotel in Las Vegas, one of the hotels participating in the event. "We're not accepting applications and filling positions, but we will keep resumes and put those people on a mailing list."

The job fairs, which also have been held in Miami, Orlando and Jacksonville, have been criticized by state Commerce Secretary Charles Dusseau as more of a promotional effort for the casino amendment than venues where people can apply for jobs.

"It's both (a job fair and promotional)," said Randy Lewis, spokesman for Proposition for Limited Casinos. "Because there are no casinos here, we cannot offer anyone a job, but we want to make sure people know if the amendment passes what types of jobs are available."

One recent recruit to the casino industry is Cindy Schwarzkopf, daughter of retired Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, who moved to Las Vegas a year and a half ago to take a job as convention services manager for the Mirage Hotel.

"I really enjoy it," said Cindy Schwarzkopf, who will be on hand to answer questions today. "One thing about working in the casino industry that is so unique is these are such large destination resorts that you can work in gaming without ever really working in gaming."

Industry supporters say many more jobs will be created than the obvious blackjack dealer and hotel manager positions. The business will need accountants, computer operators, gardeners, lighting technicians and others.

"There are many job skills people already have that would transfer to the casino industry," Tucky said.

If the amendment passes, supplies and services for construction work alone are estimated at more than $600-million for the Tampa Bay area, according to sponsors of the proposition.

Casino jobs typically pay better than other hospitality jobs, Lewis said. The average salary is $25,000, and higher in the larger hotels, he said.

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