ROHNERT PARK -- While hospitality and tourism already has been a bright spot in hiring this year across the North Bay, Sonoma County will likely see a significant jump in that sector with the opening of the Graton Resort and Casino, expected to employ about 2,000 people.

[caption id="attachment_68773" align="alignright" width="314"] Artist rendering of Graton Resort and Casino, as seen from the entrance[/caption]

Joe Hasson, general manager of the forthcoming casino expected to be completed by this fall, said the establishment has already received several thousand applications for a wide variety of positions, ranging from card dealers to security. [The casino's recruiting website: gratonresortcasino.com/Careers.]

Both the volume and quality of candidates have been impressive, Mr. Hasson said, attributing the region's established reputation as a tourist destination as a helpful factor in finding qualified workers.

"Most of our offers will go out in late September, and by that time I would expect the 7,000 applicants to have grown," he said. "It's going quite well. There is clearly a talented workforce in the North Bay to take on work that involves hospitality that Sonoma County is well-known for."

So far, the casino, which will be the Bay Area's largest with some 3,000 slot machines across 320,000 square feet, has hired an initial staff of about 100, mostly for key management positions. Las Vegas-based Station Casinos is managing the facility on behalf of the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria.

The hospitality and tourism sector in June had 53,220 workers in Sonoma, Napa, Solano, Lake and Mendocino counties, an increase of 2,000 employees, or 3.9 percent, from a year before, according to the latest state figures. Industry employment figures for Marin in 2012--2013 aren't yet available, but sector employment in Marin was around 13,000 workers in 2011 and the previous few years.

So total hiring plans for Graton Casino itself would account for about 3 percent of North Bay hospitality and tourism jobs, nearly matching all sector job growth in the region over 12 months.

"It's a big hospitality business at the end of the day," Mr. Hasson said.

While some industry sectors are struggling to find a talented workforce in the immediate North Bay as the economy improves, Mr. Hasson said that has not been the case with the casino. The vast majority of applicants, he said, are from the Sonoma and surrounding counties and only a small portion are would-be long distance commuters.

"We are certainly not falling short," Mr. Hasson said. "This is meant to provide incremental employment, largely for local people."

The largest portion of new employees at the casino will be card dealers, with about 750 or so total out of the 2,000 workers. Of that, Mr. Hasson said some 375 have already been trained through the casino's dealer schools. Another training session will begin in August for prospective card dealers.

Other positions include a robust security staff, surveillance, money handlers, slot personal, cashiers, food and beverage staff, as well as back of the house jobs like HR staff and accountants.

Many of the positions could also become unionized, as there is an agreement between the tribe and trade groups in the North that will allow workers to eventually make that decision. Mr. Hasson said it was premature to say if and when that would occur and what union would be considered.

The casino itself is a project labor agreement, with the vast majority of construction workers coming from local trade unions.

In addition to the casino and resort, Station Casinos will operate and own several restaurants, which will require food service workers.

Ultimately, Mr. Hasson said the casino would not only provide the 2,000 jobs but that it would also be a boon to the county's tourism sector as a whole.

"I think it will certainly give the tourism industry another opportunity to expand, and visitors to wine country and the North Bay will have another reason to come or stay longer," Mr. Hasson said.