Learning to stack chips at casino dealer school

    Job seekers try out for a chance to deal cards, run roulette tables and other casino games. Philadelphia’s first casino is scheduled to open in September.

    Some aspiring casino workers in Philadelphia headed to “dealer” school Wednesday, hoping to pursue a career at the city’s first casino, Sugar House. Anti-casino activists who feared potential crime, traffic, and the lure of addictions fought gaming, but in recession the hundreds of casino jobs have lured plenty of people.
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    About fifty people stand around tables stacking chips into little piles. Jack Johnson’s hands move quickly and confidently.
    “These are five dollar chips, they would go in stacks of four: $20 in each, five stacks makes it $100. And pretty much you’ll just practice these in case somebody’s wanting to change in a $100 that’s what you would do.”

    While he’s learning how to be a dealer, Johnson says he’s spent plenty of time on the other side of the table.

    “I’ve been playing cards for about fifteen years. I’ve been to Atlantic City. I moved up here from Florida. I been down there to the hard Rock. Also, I’m originally from Oklahoma. My Indian tribe does have casinos so it’s something that I know about a little bit.”

    Jack Johnson
    Jack Johnson

    Johnson says he hasn’t been able to find a job since he moved here a year and a half ago. He used to work construction, but he says working as a dealer in a casino has it’s perks too: it’s cool inside.

    Sugar House General Manager Wendy Hamilton says the dealers will earn $4 to $7 per hour plus on average $20 to $30 an hour in tips. They will also receive full benefits. That’s after they finish the eight week-long training.

    “There’s two hundred fifteen students in the school. And we interviewed 1,300 to get to those 215 so it’s a pretty impressive group in there.”

    Hamilton says there’s a final test would-be dealers must pass.

    “At the very end they’ll audition which means they stand at a table and act like they’re a dealer and we watch and assess them and it’s our hope that everybody makes it through. We have jobs for everybody!”

    Sugar House is expected to open in September.

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