Rock music calms casino job seekers - Sunday 12th of June 2005

The people in the long line outside the Mississippi Coast Coliseum on Monday morning weren't there to buy concert tickets. They were there to be part of the action at the Biloxi Hard Rock Casino.

"Opportunity Rocks," a casino-sponsored job fair, attracted more than 2,300 applicants for the 1,500 jobs. The applicants were advised to relax and get into the music. Classics by the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin and Aerosmith blared from the stereo system.

Joe Billhimer, the casino's chief operating officer, said he was amazed the turnout was so high, considering that the job fair continues for two more days. The hours are from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. today and Wednesday at the Convention Center.

One applicant traveled from Detroit to attend the job fair, but locals will have an employment advantage. Although analysts in the casino industry expect the Hard Rock brand name to grow the Coast market, the casino has been consistent in letting local people know they won't be taken for granted.

"It's a locals' casino," said Shannon Oberlies, vice president of marketing for the Hard Rock. "That's the only way we're going to survive, is with local support."

Male applicants who had dressed the part for a traditional job interview shed their ties and loosened their collars.

Sheila McLaughlin of Gulfport, who was seeking a job in human resources or finance, said she had been a bit nervous until she heard the music.

"The atmosphere is great," McLaughlin said. "It makes you feel welcome. I grew up with this music. Knowing the words to the music definitely calms you down."

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