George Brennan is an award-winning journalist, husband and father of two teenagers. Read more...
Gambling isn’t just for Las Vegas and Atlantic City anymore and that means the jobs aren’t confined to those two casino giants anymore either.
You might say the casino industry is spreading the wealth.
According to a 2013 study by the American Gaming Association, there are 39 states with some type of casino gambling whether its commercial casinos or Indian gaming. And there are other states, like New Hampshire, looking to deal themselves in.
In 2012, the year covered by the AGA report, 332,075 people were employed in commercial casinos across the country accounting for $13.2 billion in wages. In late February, Massachusetts became the latest state to license a casino awarding a slot parlor license to a race track. By the end of the year, three full-fledged casinos with hotels, restaurants, slots machines and table games are expected to be licensed adding both to the job total and revenue total of U.S. casinos.
Along with the obvious hospitality jobs for waitresses, bartenders, bellhops and hotel clerks, there are specialized opportunities that can turn low-cost training into decent paying jobs without the need for a college degree.
Deb Driscole, assistant director of hospitality and tourism at Northampton Community College in Pennsylvania, is the program manager for the college’s casino training program – a certificate program that provides training for table game dealers and surveillance.
Pennsylvania, which opened its first casinos in 2010, continues to have a demand for trained workers ready to deal the cards at a blackjack or poker table, Driscole said. “We’re alive and we’re doing well,” she said.
For now, someone looking to become a dealer has a lot of options, Driscole said.
At Northampton Community College, someone looking to obtain a certificate can spend as little as $650 for a four-week course and walk away with the training necessary to land a job that pays $35,000 to $40,000 per year in the Pennsylvania casinos, she said. According to salary.com, the national median salary for a Blackjack dealer -- including base pay and bonuses/tips -- is just less than $31,000 a year.
For an eight week course and a relatively small investment of $1,025, a student can get certified for two types of table games, Driscole said. That ups their ante in landing a job.
Most casino companies offer good benefits packages as well, she said. There’s medical and dental insurance, flex time and 401k. “The majority of casinos give their employees at least one hot meal per day and you wear uniform so you’re not spending money on work clothes.”
And once you’re in, the odds improve on a chance for advancement.
Before you get ready to plunk down your chips on a casino career path, there are a few things to consider. Chief among them is that in most jurisdictions, you have to be licensed.
Massachusetts, which has similar training programs at its community colleges, recently released regulations indicating that employees for most casino positions will have to go through a background check and be fingerprinted to determine suitability.
“Licenses or registrations are required to ensure that those involved with the expanded gaming industry meet the statutory requirements of good character, honesty and integrity by clear and convincing evidence,” David Acosta, director of licensing for the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, said.
Driscole also recommends that candidates take some time to go to a casino – not as a player, but to observe.
For example, Pennsylvania casinos allow smoking. So if you’re an asthmatic, as one of her better students was, you may not be able to handle a shift in the smoke-filled venues, she said. “It’s a tough gig, it really is,” Driscole said. “People are smoking, they’re drinking and they’re gambling. They’re happy when they’re winning, but not so much when they’re losing.”
Working at a casino doesn’t always mean working on the front lines, either.
Surveillance jobs – watching the players and the employees – is a casino career where you not only need to know the games, but you need to know how you might get played.
At Northampton, a certificate is available after an eight-week course that costs $600 for 64 hours of training on things like spotting suspicious activity, cheating, writing reports and operating the sophisticated cameras that can zoom in on patrons and employees.
It’s another fairly low investment for a job that starts at $15 per hour or about $31,000 per year, Driscole said.
According to salary.com, the median salary for a casino surveillance operator is roughly $36,000 a year. And surveillance is another area where there’s room for growth. A surveillance casino supervisor earns a median salary of $44,000 a year, according to salary.com.
With more casinos coming online every year, the future looks like it’s coming up 7s.
“I think at some point we could see casino gambling in all of the states, with the exception of Hawaii,” Driscole said. “The only question is will they start to cannibalize themselves?”