So demand was overwhelming when one of the largest commercial casinos in the country began advertising hundreds of jobs with middle-class paychecks, benefits and the prospect of something increasingly elusive: advancement.
“I want to deal for a while and then move up. This is a career for me,” said Karl Kim, a 46-year-old from Glen Burnie who was out of work last year when he applied online. He survived the initial screening process and wound up learning craps. Just in time, too: His girlfriend lost her job as he was finishing his training.
“I really want to be able to provide,” he said. “I need a decent salary.”
The school was no minor commitment for Kim and the other students. They agreed to spend four hours in class every weekday for 12 weeks, with no guarantee that they would be offered a job — or be able to obtain the state license necessary to work at the casino. There were also optional Saturday sessions at the school, and everybody was instructed to practice at home.
“If they were to tell me I’m behind, I’d practice all night,” Jason Wiener declared one day before class.
Wiener, 30, was working as a supermarket pharmacy technician in Baltimore County. He’d quit once before, and he was ready to quit again. “It’s pretty tedious, and I’ve gotten about as far as I can get without being a pharmacist,” he explained. “I actually hate my job.”
Dealing craps, he said, “would pay a lot more than I make now, and I love the atmosphere. Casinos are interesting to me, and the job has real growth potential. I’d eventually like to move up to management from dealing.”
Maryland Live executives predicted that some new dealers would be offered supervisor positions within two years and be promoted to pit managers within five.
But Wiener was getting ahead of himself: “I need to get through school first.”
Uncomfortable by design
Since opening in June, Maryland Live has been doing a booming slot business. Last month, it generated almost $45 million in gambling revenue — a record for the property. The addition of 122 table games will probably generate as much excitement as revenue for the casino. Or as one executive put it: “Tables are for show, slots are for dough.”
Maryland Live spent some of that dough — about $1.5 million — on its dealer school, choosing to make the training free because it needed so many employees so quickly. In most states, aspiring dealers pay several hundred dollars to learn the trade.
Maryland Live’s boot camp was set up in two converted retail spaces on the ground floor of Marley Station Mall, about 10 miles from the casino. One of the classrooms was next door to Frederick’s of Hollywood.
There were no chairs around the 30 tables in the classrooms, because there are no chairs for dealers on the casino floor. Maryland Live officials wanted students to get used to being on their feet.