Arundel Casino Dealer School bets on growing needs at Maryland Live

The course is "Introduction to Casino Gambling," but upon entering the classroom, one might be tempted to place a bet at the roulette wheel, the craps table or any of the other table game layouts.

As he stared at the roulette wheel, Christopher Lamb of Elkridge, a student who has taken one week of the Anne Arundel Community College course, could scarcely contain his excitement at the thought of working in a casino.


"It is an amazing game, just on gambling and chance, and who knows where the ball is going to land? I just find that really incredible, the ball spinning in the wheel and placing your bets on the ball," he said.

Lamb is enrolled in casino dealer courses offered by AACC's Hotel, Culinary Arts and Tourism Institute. Current classes began May 6. Maryland Live financed and ran an earlier AACC-certificated dealer school from January to March to train some of the 1,200 employees the casino needed when table games opened April 11.


The dealer school is housed at Marley Station mall in Glen Burnie. Many of the students have their sights on employment at Maryland Live, and the dealer school brochure points to U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics that predict that employment for dealers will grow by 17 percent by 2020. Maryland Live supervisors lead training in the classes, which are conducted at least four days a week and four hours a day. Some run through October.

"The partnership between the college and Maryland Live actually preceded the casino building," said Mary Ellen Mason, director of the Hotel, Culinary Arts and Tourism Institute. "We were approached by casino management to do a student-led project in which our purchasing and cost-control students developed and tested recipes for their buffet restaurant. And they didn't have facilities to do that."

Mason said AACC also provided culinary facilities for the casino's final Suisse chef testing for candidates. The current dealer school has transitioned to Anne Arundel Community College as open-enrollment classes that are no longer paid for by Maryland Live.

Dealer school offers such courses as "Introduction to Craps," "Casino Blackjack Dealer" and "Casino Mini Baccarat Dealer." Mason said the school created three noncredit courses last year.

"Being a new industry to the state, there weren't a lot of trained workers available for them," Mason said, "so it gave the college an opportunity to provide that training that allowed individuals within the county and surrounding counties to get whatever training is necessary to pursue long-term careers in a new and growing industry within the state."

She spoke just moments before the start of the "Introduction to Casino" course. The class teaches casino organization, handling money, counting odds, and working with cards and chips.

"A lot of [the students] understand the service industry and know how to meet and greet guests," said Paul Sheppard, an adjunct instructor at HCAT and a shift manager at Maryland Live. "Things that are tough are shuffling the cards, cutting of the [chips]."

Sheppard gathered up a large stack of $5 chips to show how he would give them to patrons seated around the table. Breaking down the stack to give each patron five chips, he lowered the stack with his fingers to the table and released four at a time in a matter of seconds, as if he were placing cherries atop chocolate sundaes.


"They also have to learn the element of picking [chips]," he said. "If you say, 'Three red,' dealers have to look at you and pick up the chips without looking at the chips. Everyone can cut chips after a while, but to do it neatly and effectively, it takes at least a year."

AACC student Wayne Jones of Randallstown said he has visited Maryland Live on several occasions. He has played the table games and slots, but said he has also "observed those working at the facility, to get a feel for the environment of the gaming industry."

"Having been retired for the past three years and recognizing that gaming in Maryland is growing, friends of mine that have entered into the gaming industry had encouraged me to seek training as a dealer," Jones said.

Lamb enrolled after a stint at Howard Community College, where he was working toward a degree in elementary education. But he ultimately lost interest in teaching. After playing for the first time in a cruise ship casino, he discovered what he hopes to make a career.

"I gave it some thought," he said, "and I found it more interesting than I ever thought it would be."