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Potential casino dealers go to school - News - recordonline.com

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Potential casino dealers go to school - News - recordonline.com

THOMPSON – “What time is it?” Anthony Ramos called out.

“It’s game time!” dozens of his fellow students shouted back. They had gathered on a recent weekday at Resorts World Catskills’ new dealer school, held in a spot near the Town of Thompson ShopRite.

The first of three dealer schools for the $1.2 billion, 1.6-million-square-foot, five-star resort-casino and entertainment complex is up and running, with two more set to open this month in Orange and Ulster counties. Casino leaders anticipate the student pool will continue to skew toward those 40 and older, especially under- and unemployed individuals and those making late-life career changes for stable, higher-paying dealer jobs with benefits.

One thousand applicants are expected for 600 dealer jobs at the 24-7, 365-day casino, which will open in March on the former Concord Resort Hotel property in the Town of Thompson. About 30 percent are projected to be in their 20s, 20 percent in their 30s and half 40 and older. Most will hail from Orange, Ulster and Sullivan counties. And six in 10 applicants will likely already be employed full- or part-time, said table games shift manager John Collins.

They’re vying for jobs starting between $40,000 and $50,000, depending upon tips, and they'll staff 134 table games, including poker, blackjack, craps, roulette, baccarat and Pai Gow.

“A lot of people are intimidated, and they think they need to have some kind of engineering degree, but the skills can be taught to anyone,” said Charlie Degliomini, an executive vice president at casino parent Empire Resorts.

Casino leaders are looking for three key traits among dealers, said Jack Kennedy, Resorts World Catskills’ executive director of table games.

“One is personality, two is manual dexterity and three is the mental capability to handle the simple math of these games,” Kennedy said. He expects each student to learn at least two table games.

Becoming a dealer takes three months, including at least six weeks of free training, or a minimum of 120 hours. Classes run four or five days a week and take four or five hours a day.

Some games take more time. A craps stick handler must track the 128 different bets predicated on a dice roll, call the numbers right, and watch for dice tampering and tricky rolls. All of that takes eight weeks and 180 hours of classes. Pai Gow tiles require even more training, or 10 weeks and 200 hours.

Degliomini said dealers will be upwardly mobile. Within a decade, a high-achieving dealer on the property’s 100,000-square-foot gaming floor could progress to supervisor, pit boss and assistant shift manager.

Randy Good, 45 and a new Monticello resident, made a similar climb over seven years as a dealer at the Sands Resort Casino in Bethlehem, Pa., though he had also spent 10 years dealing on South Carolina casino boats. Kennedy recently recruited Good and his wife, Lingling, from the Sands to teach at the dealer school and work as shift managers at the casino.

Succeeding at dealing “just takes a will to try something new,” Good said. “Most of the people who got into this business wanted to change careers or find a career, and they learned we actually have a lot of fun at work. We interact with customers daily and laugh and joke.”

He and Lingling smile often and reassure the school’s inaugural 103-student class that they, too, once had trouble fanning cards and sliding chip stacks. Practice at home, they say. And they have plenty to caution the students about.

Trying to detect funny business? Memorize the bets of the patrons in side-seat blind spots to guard against chips being added or pinched from stacks after bets are made. Worried about card-marking? Shred the deck. The casino destroys cards constantly. Notice blackjack players surrendering on favorable hands and hitting when they would normally stay? They could be counting cards.

Student Chris Klupacs is drinking up all the lessons. The 50-year-old Wurtsboro resident has been unemployed from pipefitting and landscaping for awhile because of a car accident.

“I’d like to learn everything possible,” said Klupacs, who is transitioning from manual labor. “I’m just thinking of the future and finding something that’s a little less strenuous, but I’m not looking to sit in an office all day.”

That was a common theme among the students, who relished even the smallest lessons.

“Every single thing I’m learning is cool, from holding the chips to cutting and stacking them,” said 49-year-old Bronx resident Ana Ortiz, who plans to move to Monticello for a dealer job.

She needs every minute of her four-hour classes to master the hand techniques, but she thinks it’s worth it to switch from a tiring handywoman job.

For Rachel Mann, 46 of Monticello, a dealer job will help pay off college debt as she pauses from earning degrees to become a youth mental-health counselor. The school also fulfills her lifelong dream of becoming a dealer like all the suave operators she’s watched on TV during the World Series of Poker.

Or as Mann put it, “My children said, ‘Mom, Go for it!’ It’s just a good opportunity.”

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