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Free course trains Maryland casino dealers

Thursday - 1/24/2013, 12:32pm  ET

By BRANDON OLAND
Carroll County Times

GLEN BURNIE, Md. - When jockey Mark Rosenthal won, so did those who bet on his horse.

The Eldersburg resident is considering a different occupation, one where he will still play a role in whether gamblers cash in or lose out.

Rosenthal is one of more than 850 students learning what it takes to become table game dealers in a free 12-week course provided by Maryland Live! Casino and Anne Arundel Community College in Glen Burnie.

The students were selected out of 9,000 applicants seeking jobs that would make them the first table game dealers at Maryland casinos.

Last November, voters approved Question 7, which allowed table games at state casinos.

Maryland Live! in Hanover, the closest casino to Carroll County, is in the process of renovating to make room for table games. They will be adding 1,200 employees to accommodate the new, around-the-clock betting options, said Rob Norton, the casino's president and general manager.

Approximately half of those new positions will be coveted dealer jobs, where employees will oversee Blackjack, Roulette, Craps, Mini-Baccarat, Pai Gow, Big Six and Poker.

All table games except Poker will be operational by this spring. Maryland Live! is building a separate room for Poker that should be open by the summer, said Neal Sloane, the vice president of table games for Maryland Live!

In order to become a dealer at Maryland Live!, students must complete the courses, pass an exam, a drug test and a detailed background check.

Students are taking the 12-week course in the hopes of simply getting interviewed by Maryland Live!. Not everyone who completes the course will be offered a job, and applicants aren't sure how much the jobs will pay. Table games dealers in Charles Town, W.Va., average roughly $50,000 per year, according to a Maryland Live! press release.

Regardless, they are making time to learn the trade and trying to take advantage of a rare mass hiring opportunity in a challenging economy.

"This is their third week of courses," Sloane said. "They've made the commitment. Some want part-time (work). Some are looking for full-time jobs."

For Rosenthal, working full-time inside a casino would mean he would no longer toil outdoors atop a horse in sometimes unforgiving weather. When he arrived in Laurel to work out horses Tuesday morning, temperatures were in the lower teens.

After showering, he showed up for his afternoon course, where he was positioned behind a Blackjack table taking bets and doling out cards to his fellow students at a classroom inside a vacant commercial space on the first floor of Marley Station Mall.

"This is completely different," he said of being a dealer. "When you get on that side of the table, it's a whole new story."

While Rosenthal dealt cards, fellow student Ursula Pocknett served as a mock Blackjack player while Rosenthal practiced taking bets, shuffling, collecting chips and verbally informing table guests of every move.

In order to complete the course, Pocknett is making a 120-mile round-trip commute from her current home in Indian Head, where she is a restaurant shift manager.

She's used to odd hours, which will come in handy for at a venue open 24-hours- a-day for gaming.

"I love the fast pace of it," she said of being a dealer. "It's something new for me."

The dealer hopefuls spend most of their course time behind gambling tables while Maryland Live! employees critique their styles. It's an unusually raucous atmosphere for course work, one Norton said should translate to the Maryland casinos when table games are implemented.

For now, the background noise at Maryland casinos is limited to the endless dinging of slot machines and music being piped in through the speaker systems.

In a few months, while table operators oversee it all, cheers and groans should be audible from tables where fortunes are decided by a dice roll or the right playing card.

"I think the energy level you can sense from this (classroom) will be magnified in the casino," Norton said. "That's a big piece of what we're doing on. You'll be able to hear the cheers of the win and the agony of defeat."

___

Information from: Carroll County Times of Westminster, Md., http://www.carrollcounty.com/


(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)