A Baltimore pastor is helping city leaders find qualified candidates within his congregation to fill 1,700 jobs available at a casino, despite the possible implications that can arise from Christians working in the gambling industry.
Pastor Alvin C. Hathaway of Union Baptist Church says helping his members have access to employment has been one of his ministry's top priorities, since the average income for a family of four is $13,000 in the Upton neighborhood where his church is located.
"You can be in something but not be of it," said Hathaway to The Christian Post. "People of faith could work in that industry and not be tainted or polluted. There is a moral issue associated with gambling but there is also a social need within Baltimore."
Hathaway's part in helping to promote employment at Horseshoe Casino, a Caesars Entertainment subsidiary, set to open this summer, is part of the city and casino executive's efforts to partner with a wide range of community groups, neighborhood associations and civic organizations to host job fairs.
"We'll be recruiting for a wide variety of jobs including security, transportation, food and beverage, cashiers and office staff and we want to hire Charm City's finest," said Chad Barnhill, Horseshoe Baltimore senior vice president and general manager, in a statement.
After church service last Sunday, job interview stations were set up at Union Baptist for members interested in working at Horseshoe. Nearly 130 congregants attended the job fair in which they met with the casino's assistant general manager and vice president of human resources.
"The opportunity to have employment is a real need in our community. From the casino's standpoint, to be aggressive in identifying qualified, local residents sends a signal to other businesses about how they should do outreach within our community," said Hathaway.
Hathaway, who is a part of the Maryland Governor's Workforce Investment Board as well as other city initiatives that help develop employment within the state, says Baltimore's 10 percent unemployment rate continues to rise. He noted that the casino industry pays higher than other minimum wage jobs and working at Horseshoe could be the answer for many of the city's families.
However, not all area church leaders agree.
"I don't think it's the role of the church to promote jobs in a particular industry, especially in an industry that has many negative issues; I don't support that. It's sad that the church puts itself in that position," said Bishop Bart Pierce of Rock City Church, a mega-congregation in Baltimore, to The Christian Post.
While Pierce acknowledges that the city's unemployment rate is high, he says that does not justify a church leader's reasons for encouraging their members to work at a casino.
"Baltimore has a large populous of people who don't want to work and there are people who are unemployed but are unemployable. The job market is bad, yes, but we don't need the institution of the church pushing people towards desperation of jobs when there are other opportunities … we already know the fruit of this [casino]. Why send my people towards that?" said Pierce.
Hathaway has received additional opposition but says that most people within his church see his partnership with city leaders to promote casino jobs as an opportunity to increase their chances of employment. The Union Baptist pastor nevertheless does agree that being in the gambling industry can lead to negative consequences.
"With my spiritual hat on, I would say people should refrain from such activities that would take away [financial] resources from their families. Gambling is a game of chance; it's against the Christian that will engage in it," said Hathaway.
"If a person doesn't have the disposable income to treat gambling as entertainment and are treating it as an addiction or a way to change their income level, they need to be careful."
Currently, the $442-million entertainment complex is under construction in the city's south side near Camden Yards and M&T Bank Stadium, home of the Baltimore Orioles and Baltimore Ravens. When complete, the casino will house 2,500 video lottery terminals, 100 table games and a 25-table World Series of Poker-branded poker room amid 122,000 square feet of gaming space.