GLEN BURNIE, Md. - A referendum approved by state voters in November means table games are coming soon to the Maryland Live! Casino in Anne Arundel County.
In advance, hundreds of students of all ages are now taking part in a free dealer school offered by Anne Arundel Community College and sponsored by the casino.
About 9,000 people applied for the school, 6,000 were interviewed and 860 were enrolled.
The school is not accepting any more potential students right now.
"A lot of these people have never seen blackjack before. Some of them have never been in a casino before. So it's all new. So we teach them day one from scratch," says Neal Sloane, the casino's vice president of table games.
The classes, which started Jan. 7, are being held at Marley Station Mall in Glen Burnie. Retail space has been transformed into rooms full of blackjack tables, roulette wheels and craps tables.
During the 12-week school, students learn how to deal several different games, but completing the course does not guarantee a job at the casino.
"There's still an interviewing process, and an audition. After each game we'll audition them, and we're looking (for) not just how they deal but their personalities because it's a service industry, and we need people that are outgoing and customer friendly," says Sloane.
The casino says the addition of table games and 24-hour gaming will create more than 1,200 new jobs. Dealers have an hourly pay rate, but most of their income comes from tips. Maryland Live! expects dealers to make yearly wages similar to dealers in Charles Town, W.Va., who make about $50,000 to $55,000 a year.
"The biggest difference between dealing in a casino and dealing at home is the regulations. There's a lot of procedures involved and a lot of regulations that dealers have to be aware of and have to follow, and the procedures are there for game protection. It protects the dealer and it protects the house. Unfortunately, some people do think that they can come and cheat a casino. There's a lot of cameras in there, so most of the time they can't," Sloane says.
Maryland Live! Casino Supervisor and Instructor Agnes Farkas spoke about some of the rules dealers have to follow for security's sake.
"You always have to clap hands and clearly show it face up to the camera that you're holding nothing in your palm, and then you can proceed with any procedure that you have to do on the blackjack table: handling money, handling chips, shuffling cards," she says.
Farkas taught WTOP's Michelle Basch how to professionally shuffle cards with just her thumbs on the corners so she wouldn't reveal the cards to players at the blackjack table.
She got the hang of that, but the next lesson was more difficult.
"The most important thing as a dealer you have to learn: cutting checks." Farkas says.
She means the ability to quickly cut a stack of chips into smaller, equal stacks. For instance, turn a stack of 20 $5 chips worth a total of $100, into five stacks of five chips worth $25 each.
"Generally it takes three months before a blackjack dealer can turn around and say I feel comfortable, I can walk onto this game and deal it and not have to worry about anything. And for a craps dealer, it's normally about a year before you can go up there and stop the sweating before you step onto the table, because it is nerve racking. You've got a lot of people watching you, and you make a mistake and it's money involved," says Sloane.
The Maryland Live! Casino plans to add about 150 table games to its offerings.
The plan is to have table games like roulette and blackjack operating by spring, and an entire new room full of poker tables in place by summer.
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