Dealing Diversity: Community Colleges Cash in on Gaming Industry

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Dealing Diversity: Community Colleges Cash In On Gaming Industry.

An increasing number of African Americans, Hispanics, Asians and Native Americans are improving their odds for occupational success in the casino and gaming industry through accredited training programs now available on college campuses.

In a time when more and more communities are eagerly embracing legalized gambling, training programs for casino employees have become a good bet for many colleges. Educators are now scrambling to meet the demand.

"Look at your players," said Vic Taucer somewhat ingeniously. "You want your supervisors to reflect your market. You don't want everyone to look like a bunch of Disney characters. More casinos are conscious of affirmative action."

Taucer, who oversees the casino training program at the Community College of Southern Nevada, said about 10 percent of the students in his classes are non-Caucasian. Many in this group are casino employees who have been asked to attend the training programs by managers who wish them to advance up the ranks.

"The biggest minority is the Asians," Taucer said. "They are more likely to be into gaming. I like to think it's a cultural thing with me, too. I'm Italian, and gambling is pretty much accepted with us."

Fixed Numbers

Most of the training is taking place at community colleges located near cities with large numbers of casinos. The community colleges have been quick to respond to the needs of the gaming operations. For some, it has become extremely lucrative.

"We are arguably the world's largest gaming school," said Bob Sertell, assistant director of the Casino Career Institute at Atlantic Community College (ACC) in Mays Landing, NJ.

In 17 years, the ACC program has trained more than 40,000 individuals for jobs in the gaming industry. They have been taught how to deal various types of card games, how to repair and maintain slot machines, how to run cashier's operations and more.

Along the way, many racially diverse groups have been represented there "in great numbers," said Sertell. In fact, he said, there has been a premium on developing these employees because of legislation involving the nearby Atlantic City casinos.

"The New Jersey Casino Control Act stipulated that minorities and women have a protected status," Sertell explained. "Actual quotas were set -- that the casinos had to have so many percent women and so many percent minorities. The numbers were set according to federal census figures."

Affirmative action goals have been easy to meet in some job areas and difficult to achieve in others.

"Lots of folks apply to be dealers," Sertell said. "But there are some nontraditional areas where casinos have great problems, such as in the slot [machine] department. There are plenty of women and minorities who enjoy careers as slot attendants, and plenty of them get promoted to be shift supervisors. But very few of them seek out a career as a slot technician.

Booming Business

The ACC Casino Career Institute and similar programs try to accommodate the unusual work hours of casino employees who want to learn how to deal different types of table games or train for management spots. A new emphasis is being placed on self-improvement in the gaming industry used to be a business in which "the ropes" were learned from a seasoned veteran. Now, more often than not, new employees are groomed through college courses.

"Our first class of the day starts at 4:30 a.m.," said a wide-eyed Sertell, who explained that the early classes serve the employees who end their shifts an hour earlier.

At Truckee Meadows Community College near Reno, NV, business has been booming following the opening of several new casinos.

"We had a large enrollment last semester," said Marian Miller, who heads the school's apprenticeship program. …