If you want to work at Feather Falls Casino in Oroville, the management looks for one special trait that can’t be taught.
“We can teach an applicant how to deal a deck of cards, but we can’t teach personality,” states director of human resources Patrick Streight. “Customer service is our highest priority.”
He explains that during the initial interviews for managers or floor dealers, he likes to ask open-ended questions that will reveal a candidate’s personality. Questions might include, “Tell me about yourself” and “Why do you want to work at Feather Falls?” Streight also creates an imaginary scenario where a customer on the floor is yelling at an employee because the player is not winning. He then asks the applicant how he or she would diffuse the situation. The answer holds the key to the hire.
“That person usually gets a job if I see a special personality type that will fit in with our organization,” he remarks. “Job opportunities are plentiful because tribal gaming is growing better and bigger each day and the turnover is fairly high. In fact, we have positions open seven days a week.”
Dealers College Lends a Hand
With new casinos and small card rooms opening frequently, job opportunities are more plentiful than chips at a roulette table. But you don’t have to gamble on this prospective career; you can get a hands-on education at a school like Casino Dealers College in Sacramento before applying for work.
“There are literally thousands of jobs in casinos,” reports college director John Pifer, “and gambling is gaining in strength. In fact, it’s one of the hottest industries in the state and the nation, with great growth potential.”
“Gambling has come to the forefront of the society,” he contends. “Twenty years ago, if you went to a casino you were labeled as some sort of degenerate, but now there is a state-run lottery on every corner, football pools in every workplace, and people go to casinos for entertainment and to try their luck at winning cash.”
If a fast-paced career on the other side of the gaming table tempts you, Pifer says it’s easy to get started. Students learn the mechanics of the games, basic shuffling techniques, chip cutting, protection against cheaters, and customer service. No advanced math skills are required. Students can learn two games at Casino Dealers College for $499.
“There is no time limit for the course because it varies with each individual,” Pifer explains. “There was a woman in the school who was a guitar teacher with nimble fingers who played poker every day. She completed the class in 70 hours.” In the same class was a mechanic who had never played poker, plus his hands were damaged from years under the hood. He finished in 125 hours.
At the end of the course, students are given an audition, which is designed to match casino requirements. The school also helps with job placement.
All casinos require applicants to be at least 21 years old. A drug test and background check are required, and a felony on an applicant’s record is an automatic disqualification.
“Integrity is the number-one trait casinos want in their employees,” states Pifer. “Dealers are handling thousands of dollars and employers demand honesty. They also want a person who likes to interact with people from every culture.”
Dealers can earn $17 to $40 an hour and up to $50,000 a year depending on the game – dealing craps is the highest paid, followed by poker and blackjack. Some casinos allow dealers to keep their tips, while others pool them with other employees.
There are not only dealer jobs but also higher-level positions, and a move up the ladder is within easy reach. Ten years ago it took about ten years to get into management, but today that kind of advancement takes only a couple of years.
According to Pifer, managerial posts pay between $70,000 and $100,000 a year, with a terrific benefit package and all on-the-job meals.
Huge Cache of Jobs
The California Department of Tourism reports that the state has over 50 tribal casinos and over 100 card rooms. Cache Creek Casino, west of Woodland, is one of the largest. According to Ron Vargas, their vice president of human resources, the casino operates numerous businesses under one roof. “In addition to our gaming operations (slots, table games and bingo) we operate a hotel and spa, eight restaurants, a nightclub, an entertainment showroom, and a golf course that will open in late 2006 or early 2007.”
All of these operations require support departments including finance and accounting, security, human resources, facilities engineering and maintenance, and information technology. These are all areas offering hot opportunities for jobseekers.
Cache Creek employs over 2400 people, Vargas notes, and the company is always looking for qualified applicants. Currently they are hiring for positions in engineering, technology, food and beverage, table games and slot operations.
Many of the applicants for positions in table games are experienced dealers, but the casino also offers periodic schools in which they train people in casino table-games operations.
“First and foremost we look for people that are committed to building a career in a business focused on guest service,” Vargas emphasizes. “Preferred applicants either come with this background and experience or indicate that this is their desired career path.”
To those who are serious about spinning the wheel of fortune, he offers this advice: “People should understand that casinos value employees who can deliver great guest service.”