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Casinos and racinos in western Pennsylvania needed workers and documented refugees needed jobs. Putting the two together was like a marriage made in heaven. And Paul Jericho has played a major role as matchmaker, according to a story by Carl Prine of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

Jericho, who is senior program officer for refugee services at the Multicultural Community Resource Center, was a part-time casino dealer when he came up with the idea of establishing a blackjack classroom at the Center.

He previously had placed Bosnians as casino valets and Bhutanese in housekeeping and casino restaurant jobs but lingering in his mind was the thought that a lot of talent was going to waste, especially with immigrants who are math whizzes.

“I just thought that the casinos offered a great opportunity for the refugees,” Jericho told the newspaper. “Once they learn the system, they’re given a chance to perform equally with all the other dealers. It’s a meritocracy, and it gives them the chance to live the American dream.”

And how’s it working?

“The best word to describe them,” Rivers Casino Vice President Andre Barnabei told Prine, is ‘outstanding.’ Name the department, and in nearly all of them, you have immigrants: food services, table games, valets, marketing. And many are becoming supervisors.”

Barnabei added that “the industry always has rewarded hard workers who make a positive contribution, and it doesn’t matter where you come from.”

Also emphasized by the casino and racino operators was the “work ethic” exhibited by the documented immigrants. Officials said they found that the immigrants were not only hard working but also took their jobs seriously.

“If you’re a no-show, you’re fired,” Jericho said. “But when you have the work ethic that these men and women have, you don’t have to worry about that.”

Jericho noted that at the Presque Isle Downs horse-racing facility, 40 percent of the men and women in the pits flipping cards and counting chips got their initial training at the Center.

“I just thought that the casinos offered a great opportunity for the refugees.”

At the Rivers Casino on Pittsburgh’s North Shore, nearly 200 of the 2,800 workers arrived as documented immigrants in the State Department’s refugee resettlement program.

Ray Poirier is the longtime executive editor at GamingToday.

Contact Ray at [email protected].

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