Dealers hold all the cards

Apr 8, 2008 7:00 PM

Native Niche by By GT Staff | If you’re a casino dealer and have thought of relocating to sunny Florida, you could be holding the right cards.

The Seminole Tribe of Florida is looking for more than three thousand dealers to man recently-approved table games, and they’re holding job fairs in Connecticut, home of Foxwoods Resort Casino and Mohegan Sun.

The Seminoles want 3,650 experienced dealers for their Florida casinos, not novices with potential, as Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun often hire. And not just any experience: Applicants had to have at least two years of floor work and proven skills in specific games, including pai gow, popular with Asian bettors, said Dawn Neils, corporate representative for Seminole Hard Rock.

Preparing to launch the first table games in Florida later this year, the Seminole Tribe – which bought the whole Hard Rock chain last year – picked Connecticut as fertile ground. There are 4,700 dealers at Foxwoods Resort Casino and Mohegan Sun.

Many dealers from Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun were interviewing for the chance at higher pay, a new adventure, maybe a lower cost of living – and clearly better weather.

"There is not much we can do about 70 degrees and sunny in January," Mitchell Etess, president and chief executive officer of Mohegan Sun, told the Hartford Courant.

Etess said he understands the recruitment game and isn’t upset that the Seminoles are doing what Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods have done in Atlantic City, Puerto Rico and elsewhere.

He added that his casino hasn’t had a hard time keeping the roughly 2,000 dealers it needs, and he isn’t worried about finding 250 more for an expansion set to open later this year.

At nearby Foxwoods, casino officials said it is finding plenty of interest in the more than 300 new full-time and part-time dealer positions it needs for the new MGM Grand casino opening in May.

The Seminoles and the Connecticut casinos declined to discuss how much money dealers make, but a letter circulated last fall by Foxwoods during its campaign to defeat a dealers’ union said the average pay range is between $40,000 and $50,000 annually. That pay depends heavily on tips.

"Depending on where you are, the position can be a very nicely tipped [one]," said Beth Deighan, president of New Jersey-based Casino Careers, a jobs website and executive search firm.

Connecticut’s casinos, also owned and operated by Indian tribes, tend to train most of their own dealers. They hire some experienced dealers, but most come from in-house dealer schools. Foxwoods is currently running an 11-week part-time program for new dealers it has selected.

Tribal gaming employment has grown by 17 percent in the past three years to 327,000 employees in 2006, said Alan Meister, an economist with Analysis Group, which conducts an annual study of Indian gaming. Non-tribal casinos have slightly more employees, but are growing more slowly, an industry group said.

Casino officials said dealing can be an attractive career choice because of the pay, the chance to work around the world and the nature of the work. But it involves standing for extended periods, a certain amount of dexterity, and often requires paying dues as a part-time dealer before going full-time with benefits.