What are the biggest factors and pressures affecting the employment sector for casino industry workers?

I think the overriding worry is something as an employer that we’ve sought to allay as much as possible during lockdown. Te environment we are currently living through is so uncertain, in all aspects of our lives, but job security is a major factor. At all points within the last 16 months, Grosvenor’s goal has been to protect as many jobs as possible. We have upwards of 4,000 people at Grosvenor Casinos, around 50-55 per cent of whom are qualified dealers, cashiers and licensed colleagues that have trained and worked with us for a long time - and that’s a very valuable resource.

Te great news is that we’ve managed to keep most of our team together, the only people that we have lost are the colleagues that have returned to Europe and decided to stay or have been unable to return to the UK. However, our objective was to protect as many jobs as possible and that’s what we believe we’ve done.

Simply maintaining our numbers, however, is the minimum we can do to offer job security to our people. What we have tried to do is to keep people engaged and in touch with their colleagues during the lockdowns. We have a brilliant Facebook group organised by our colleagues called CasinoStars. Tis Facebook group became a fulcrum for activity during furlough since around 98 per cent of our colleagues had been furloughed.

CasinoStars became a touchstone for lots of activities during lockdown. We had people running virtual marathons, learning to cook and sharing recipes live on Facebook; we had quiz competitions and mental health awareness sessions too. Communicating with the Grosvenor team gave everyone a sense of togetherness while in lockdown and a connection with work in a soft and unassuming way.

We had a small team of colleagues at our support office that helped to organise the team, but most of the activity came from the ground- upwards, which is apt as we even had a sunflower growing competition. I failed miserably as mine grew to three feet and then snapped in two, but we had people successfully growing sunflowers up and down the country in whatever part of their outside space was available. It was an organic movement of different germinating ideas, and it was great to


Supporting welfare, retention and recruitment during Covid

Te pressures of the pandemic have caused acute industry-specific recruitment, retention and welfare issues for the land-based gaming industry. G3 speaks to Jonathon Swaine, Managing Director of Grosvenor Casinos about the challenges faced by employers and employees in the hospitality and retail sector during a period tackling Brexit, lockdowns and restricted operating rules and regulations due to Covid-19.

keep in touch with our colleagues in this way.

Since reopening on May 17, we have seen an encouraging trend in customers returning to Grosvenor Casino venues across England, Scotland and Wales. Whilst it is still early days the signs are positive - so let’s hope it stays that way!

With a bumper summer of sporting events taking place, we are positioning Grosvenor Casino venues as a destination to reunite with friends and family to watch and enjoy live sport. Our marketing strategy has kicked off and we are already seeing an increase in group bookings for the European Football Championships plus other sports such as the Lions Tour and boxing.

“We have appointed mental health first-aiders in all our casinos, with one nominee appointed in each venue to undergo a training course, in both Grosvenor and Mecca, our sister company. The mental health first-aiders are there to be a point of

contact for colleagues to discuss any insecurities they are feeling. If they

are worried about holding down their job or paying the bills, we have someone in each casino to help our colleagues.”

What’s your advice for employees looking to hold onto their jobs right now?

First of all, my advice to colleagues worried about their jobs is to reach out. I’d like to think that up and down the UK, companies in the leisure and hospitality sector are much more attuned to the challenges that all of us have felt due to the pandemic. And I hope that people feel the environment they are working in is one in which they can speak to someone and reach out for help.

We have appointed mental health first-aiders in all our casinos, with one nominee appointed in each venue to undergo a training course, in both Grosvenor and Mecca, our sister company. Te mental health first-aiders are there to be a point of contact for colleagues to discuss any insecurities they are feeling. If they are worried

about holding down their job or paying the bills, we have someone in each casino to help our colleagues. I think the hospitality sector as a whole needs to be more attuned and ready to listen to our colleagues, because although we are now open, some of the challenges our colleagues have faced have not gone away, and in some cases and circumstances have actually become more acute.

Is the casino industry struggling like the rest of the hospitality sector to fill vacancies? How unstable is the workplace right now?

I think that you have to walk in your colleagues’ shoes to understand how they are feeling about returning to work. I’ve read stories of restaurant workers in the UK being reluctant to return as they’re required to wear a mask for prolonged periods, and I think it’s really important to recognise those concerns.

I do think the market is more unstable because of the impact, not only of Covid-19, but also due to the post-Brexit employment market in which we find ourselves. Te UK hospitality sector is quoting 200,000 vaccines currently unfilled in the sector, which is 1-in-10 roles not fulfilled both front and back of house.

I wouldn’t say there is an acute shortage at Grosvenor, which reinforces that fact that we are very fortunate to have a loyal hard-working team. However, we are starting to see a few gaps, and so to respond to this we have established our own internal gaming academies. Te academies consist of classes with up to 10 colleagues, typically with a food and beverage background from within our casino, who start a six-week course to qualify as a dealer in our casinos. It is a big investment as we are creating a number of Grosvenor gaming academies across the UK with the aim to produce 50-70 dealers as part of an ongoing training and development programme.

I think it is quite an unstable recruitment market right now, but I also believe that we are relatively well-placed compared to the rest of the hospitality sector. Saying that, we are aware that we have to find new and creative way to grow our team and reward them for their development.

What should employers be doing to retain their staff?

Staring into Brexit in the late spring of 2020 through to the summer of that year, we knew that when our casinos reopened on August 15th, we had to face a potential time bomb – as colleagues, who through no fault of their own, might not feel as welcome in the UK as they would have done in the past. Many felt that they wanted to return home and Covid-19 compounded all of that.

From a pragmatic and financial perspective, we set aside a loyalty incentive for our dealing

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