To mark the 20th anniversary of the first riverboat casino on the Red River in Shreveport-Bossier City, KTBS has partnered with The Times to explore the industry's impact.
The oil bust of the 1980s forced many locals to pick up their lives to seek work elsewhere. That's why the promise of jobs 20 years ago was a major reason the casino industry found an unexpected home in traditionally conservative Shreveport-Bossier City.
Ashley Wade not only got one of those jobs but parlayed an entry-level position with Harrah's into a 20-year career. She's now regional vice president of human resources for Horseshoe Casino.
"I didn't want to leave the area. The casino industry provided me an opportunity to stay here," Wade said in the busy Horseshoe Casino lobby. "I met my husband. We're raising our children here, and we're an active part of the community."
When Wade graduated from Louisiana State University in the early ‘90s, she found no job opportunities in Shreveport-Bossier. Wade says she almost followed her friends to Texas to find work. Then came Harrah's Casino in April 1994 and she landed a spot customer service.
"They have something called a total reward rep," Wade said. "They said it pays $7an hour, but it gives you the opportunity to learn the business. So, that intrigued me."
As riverboat ownerships changed and Harrah's took over Bossier City's Horseshoe casino, Wade evolved along with the market. She's had 12 promotions in the past 20 years. The casino, Wade points out, has helped her by training her as she rose through the company's ranks.
"When opportunities would pop up, even if I wasn't experienced, they said, you have the basics of what it takes," Wade said. "We'll teach you the rest. That's exactly what they did."
Wade has been in her current position for eight years now. She encourages any young person looking for a job to consider casinos, which have positions in finance, accounting and more. With determination and hard work, she is proof a good life can be made there.
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