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Casino work fair gets job seekers' attention

Ginny Osenbaugh apparently has what it takes to be a successful casino dealer. Personality. Energy. A little bit of savvy.

"You've got to be able to talk to people," Osenbaugh, 46 and a dealer for 11 years, explained to a woman interested in a similar career.

Osenbaugh, now a shift manager with Hilton Corp., flew in to Tampa from Las Vegas along with other employees from casinos around the country to participate in a casino job fair Saturday at the Tampa Convention Center. The event was sponsored by Proposition for Limited Casinos, backers of a proposed amendment to allow casino gambling in Florida.

Employees answered questions about the types of jobs they say would be available to local residents if the amendment passes on Nov. 8.

The event, the fourth held in Florida, also was an effort for amendment supporters to promote their side of a political issue that has been hotly debated around the state. Colorful booths were set up with information and videos touting the benefits that would be derived from bringing casinos to Florida: jobs, money, tourists.

But casino opponents had a different assessment.

"It (the job fair) really has nothing to do with jobs," said George Greene, executive director of No Casinos Inc. "It's a media device and a political device, and its intention is to find people who want jobs and influence them to vote for the proposition in hopes of getting a job."

Media ploy or not, the free event drew hundreds of curious onlookers, active job-seekers and local business owners seeking to know how they could get a piece of the pie. Some left resumes and business cards. Many came away impressed by two things: the promise of high-paying jobs and lucrative benefit packages.

Casino employees said they enjoy excellent medical benefits, paid vacations, free food, great tips.

"There were days I hated it but basically it was a great job," Osenbaugh said. "I made a good living at it."

Event participants said cocktail waitresses can make $7.50 an hour plus tips. Casino dealers can make $40,000 to $60,000 a year.

"I at least tripled my income since I left here," said Jaymie Crowley, a former St. Petersburg resident who moved to Las Vegas and works as a cocktail server.

"We're voting for it," said Ronald and Priscilla Wilkins of Clearwater. That seemed to be the case with many people who attended.

"I don't think it (the job fair) changed anybody's mind. At this point people have already made up their mind," Greene said.

Carrie Hooey, wearing one of the green "Yes Proposition 8" buttons being handed out, said she is interested in becoming a card dealer.

"I love people, and I love cards," said Hooey, a medical assistant from Tarpon Springs. "I came here because I kind of want to know about the schools (for dealers)."

Others weren't quite as set on one particular course.

"I came to find out about the money, the jobs," said Tim Cash, a warehouse worker from Tampa. "They all look good to me."