Business Sense Banner

Small Business Spotlight: Dover Downs Hotel and Casino

For more than five years, Delaware's Dover Downs Hotel & Casino has been taking proactive steps to foster a disability-inclusive workplace culture—and it's been reaping the rewards on every level. The small business's strategies for success include partnerships with community-based organizations, work experience programs for youth with disabilities and top-down support from the company's leadership.

Vice President and General Manager of casino operations, Peter Bradley, has been setting a tone of inclusion at Dover Downs, by educating colleagues on the benefits of disability diversity and inspiring his hiring managers to actively recruit, employ and advance workers with disabilities.

One of Dover Downs' first steps was building a recruitment pipeline of job candidates with disabilities—a goal it accomplished through a partnership with Autism Delaware and its Productive Opportunities for Work & Recreation (POW&R) Program. The POW&R program is a unique community-based initiative, with staff members dedicated to helping adults on the autism spectrum find and be successful at employment, volunteer activities and recreation. Through the partnership, Autism Delaware deployed on-site job coaches to Dover Downs to review open positions and the expectations and requirements of the jobs. This led to one young adult with a disability being placed in a Dover Downs job that matched her skill set, and in turn, more successful job placements followed. Today, the hotel/casino gainfully employs 12 individuals on the autism spectrum in a variety of capacities. As a result of its positive experience with Autism Delaware, Dover Downs has been partnering with additional service providers and community organizations including the Delaware Department of Vocational Rehabilitation, Easter Seals and Goodwill.

Dover Downs has also embarked on efforts to provide valuable career experiences to youth with disabilities. Together with the Food Bank of Delaware, the hotel/casino has offered a “Career Exploration” summer camp for kids with disabilities who are transitioning out of school. Through this, and related programs for youth, Dover Downs has been able to offer participants either summer jobs, or the opportunity for youth with disabilities to “try out” a particular job on a temporary basis.

“For Dover Downs, the employment of individuals with disabilities has been a win/win,” says Bradley. “We have gained highly productive, reliable employees through the practice—all with fairly minor adjustments or changes to the way we operate. We are proud of our wonderful management team, which has embraced the program and contributed greatly to its success.”

For more information on these and other leading practices, access Small Business and Disability Employment: Steps to Success, which provides practical guidance for small businesses on how to recruit and retain qualified people with disabilities.

Editor's Note: This is the latest installment in a periodic series of “Business Sense” issues showcasing the experiences of actual small businesses that are working to foster a disability-inclusive workplace culture. If you know of additional small businesses we should feature here, please tell us about them by contacting the Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion (EARN).

For additional news and resources, sign up for ODEP's email updates.