DANVILLE — For those waiting on the Golden Nugget Danville Casino to open, April can’t come soon enough.
As construction and hiring progresses, General Manager Juris Basens said they still aren’t committing to an opening date yet, but it should be in mid-to-late April. Initially it was to be in March or around April 1.
He said construction is on schedule.
“We are a mid-spring opening,” Basens said.
“Everything is good construction wise. I can’t complain about anything,” he said.
Construction is going on six days a week.
“Through the process, like everybody else has, there’s been some supply chain issues,” he said. “We’ve been able to mitigate everything now. I can’t say any outside forces have caused us any delays. It’s been a very normal construction process.”
He said the exterior is approximately 90 percent done.
All the paving is 100 percent done.
The building is completely closed in.
All the wiring is being finalized, and the drywall is about 75 percent complete. The next big things will be painting and carpeting, with most of the kitchen equipment in already. The carpets and finished items will begin coming in starting in about two to three weeks.
“It’s all sequenced,” he said.
They are using local and regional businesses where they can.
“We’re trying everywhere we can to do local,” he said. For example, they’ve bought computers through CTS Computers in downtown Danville and are working with T.h. Synder on woodworking.
Basens said they’re in the process of getting ready for the approval process they have to go through with the Illinois Gaming Board to make sure everything is done according to the regulations. That process will start mid-to-late March.
Hiring is at seven people right now.
Positions on board right now: Basens; Matthew Sexton from Indianapolis as finance director; Chris Hawkland, head of tables/gaming; Kurt Harvey, information technology director; administrative assistant Kaitlyn Morrison; and in human resources are Amanda McCoy as director and Neva Alexander as employee relations specialist. McCoy and Alexander come from Viscofan. Morrison is a Danville High School graduate and also from Danville.
Basens said Hawkland, casino operations manager, is from Louisiana, and was casino assistant shift manager at Golden Nugget Lake Charles, Louisiana Casino.
The casino has offers out for directors of marketing and also security and surveillance.
The recruiting process has started for more positions, including through the local job center and online job sites.
“We have a lot of activity,” he said, about a couple hundred people having indicated interest.
“We’ve released to the different search engines about one-third of the main positions,” Basens said.
Those positions range from dealers to managerial and supervisor positions to those in food and beverage.
The positions are created, with the job descriptions to comply with the casino’s needs and be legally sound and also comply with internal controls which are submitted to the Illinois Gaming Board.
“Honestly I think it’s going very smoothly, and in several months we’ll be open,” Basens said about hirings.
There will be approximately 300 full time equivalent employees hired, which could be 300 to 450 actual people.
There’s a lot of people who don’t know about the casino industry, but they might want to see about part-time or full-time work, Basens said.
The casino will have its hiring center at Danville Area Community College. Casino department heads also will work part-time in the building.
“We want to do a lot of quick interviewing,” Basens said. “If we want you, we don’t want you to get away. If we like you, we’d like to get you to fill out your application, get your license application, get you signed up and figured you out, because we don’t want you to escape.”
Notifications will be coming out on the casino website and Facebook. There will be different job events around the city. Some will be specific to certain casino departments and some general.
Most hirings will occur for general positions in March and April.
Slot technicians and dealers are different because training is needed. Dealers have a several-step process to go through. They’ll qualify by some testing for the school. If they get into the school, they will get a conditional offer if they successfully pass the school background and drug tests, he said.
“We’re doing the training. DACC is going to monitor what we’re doing and then we’re going to hand over the casino training to DACC. That’s part of the overall plan,” Basens said. “They want to add the casino specific training into their hospitality curriculum.”
Training for the games differs from two weeks to five or six weeks to two months. Craps and the roulette wheel take longer. Blackjack for a lot of people can take two weeks.
“It’s results-based,” Basens said. “It’s not like a typical school course where you have to put in an x amount of hours. Hours aren’t required. Your ability to perform is what’s required. That way we audition everybody. And once you get past your audition, you’re ready to go.”
“The state does not require a certification for a dealer. It’s up to us to evaluate whether you are qualified or not,” he added.
Once that’s done, onsite casino training would occur for a couple weeks for an employee to be ready when the casino opens.
Basens said other parts of the surrounding site they are working toward is an intersection connected to Lynch Road. It won’t have a traffic signal. Traffic studies determined signalization wasn’t required. Some traffic will be taken off by the hotels, he said.
“Construction on that will start probably at or a little bit after opening. It’s all committed. It’s all contracted. It’s all permitted. That’s all done. But the actual construction part of it, we couldn’t schedule it during the winter months even though the winter is much milder… It will start sometime in April,” he said.
Basens said people traveling to the casino will be coming either way on Eastgate Drive until the crossover is completed.
It’s not like a basketball game or theater, where 2,000 people will be arriving at once. It’s all trickle in, Basens said.
But around dinnertime on Friday and Saturday, the traffic will likely be more than usual but not anything to back traffic up, Basens said.
Saltgrass Steak House and the casino are expected to open the same day.
Saltgrass will get a lot of assistance prior to opening due to it being a national brand. Senior employees will train in an existing Saltgrass restaurant to get all the systems, recipes and meus and everything down, Basens said.
There also will be sports bar and cafe training.
Basens said he’s always worried about not having enough people to employ.
The inside of the casino will have a little bit of a retro theme because the Golden Nugget theme has been around for a long time. The colors are heavy in gold, black and red in a more neutral theme.
Saltgrass has a little bit of Texas in there, he said of its theme.
Saltgrass also will be having breakfast in addition to lunch and dinner. Once a month they are considering a brunch.
Officials can’t wait to show off the restaurant and casino.
A hard-hat press day for tours and photos for media representatives is planned for mid-February.