They Take A Gamble, And Hope For Steadier Employment

Casino dealer training students Melat Daniel and Brad Leitz practice their skills

KING OF PRUSSIA PA – Jayne Flanagan, a North Coventry (PA) Township resident, had become accustomed in years past to dealing with bids, structures and specifications in her job as an engineering coordinator. Then the economy went south, engineers received fewer projects to work on, and Flanagan got laid off.

So for future employment, Flanagan considered “dealing” of an altogether different kind. She learned to become a casino worker.

“I was getting nowhere finding another job and realized it was time to think creatively,” she said. “I had never considered a career in the casino industry, but it sounded really interesting, and I think the opportunities will be outstanding.”

Flanagan and others are among hundreds of people who have paid Montgomery County Community College (MCCC) for training to work in the new Valley Forge Resort Casino, scheduled to open at the end of this month (March 2012) in King of Prussia PA, and at other casinos across Pennsylvania. The college partnered with the resort, as it has previously with other specialty employers, to provide industry-specific education.

The casino will feature 600 slot machines and 50 live gaming tables along with retail, restaurants and entertainment venues. MCCC’s Center for Workforce Development is currently offering its second round of casino dealer training in a state-of-the-art mock casino located at its Blue Bell PA campus.

The course list includes “Introduction to Table Games,” “Blackjack And Carnival Games,” “Craps,” “Mini Baccarat,” “Roulette,” and cardio-pulmonary resuscitation. That last set of lessons is in case someone suffers a heart attack at the gaming tables.

“I was surprised by the level of detail that we needed to learn in order to do our jobs,” Flanagan said. “When you watch dealers, they make it look easy. But you don’t realize what else goes in to it. It’s far more than just playing the game.”

Classmate Linda Snyder of Spring City PA, who has worked at a series of part-time jobs since being laid off, made a similar observation. “We … put in a lot of time learning and practicing,” she said. “For example, I had to learn the mechanics of moving my fingers separately from each other and how to move the chips.”

The college carefully notes that completing its casino dealer training does not guarantee employment. But with the growth of the gambling business in western Montgomery County, as well as in Philadelphia and elsewhere, the odds seem good that graduates with skill and credentials can find a job almost anywhere in the U.S. College spokeswoman Alana Mauger called the training “portable.”

It’s also limited to individuals age 18 and older.

Those who see little on the horizon in their existing careers hope the college’s courses are the answer they’ve been waiting for. “I’ve been unemployed for three of the last five years,” said student Robert Sweeny of Hatfield. He’s a former purchasing agent who declared his past career as “dead,” and added, “this is a good job opportunity without putting out a huge amount of money for training.”

Besides that, chipped in fellow student Osmond Mincarelli of Spring City, “there’s a certain excitement about working in a new place.”

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Photo from Montgomery County Community College