Despite the scaling down of casino plans, an academy is being
launched to train the next generation of croupiers. Tony Tysome reports
The gambler to be found
regularly propping up the roulette table at 4am probably couldn't care less
about the quality of the croupier's conversation. But times are changing. It
seems nimble fingers, zippy mental arithmetic and the knack of looking good in
evening dress are no longer the only skills needed for service in the green
baize world of the casino.
future anyone wanting to spin the wheel or deal the cards has got to be an
entertainer. "There has been a sea-change in the kind of people we are looking
for," says Kevin Graham, technical training manager for Grosvenor Casinos.
Entertaining will therefore be very much on the agenda at the new
National Gaming Academy, a venture just set up by three colleges. Its mission:
to supply a rapidly evolving casino industry with a new breed of multi-tasking
The new academy - a
partnership between Blackpool and the Fylde, Greenwich Community, and North
Warwickshire and Hinckley Colleges - will offer what is effectively a national
curriculum for croupiers and other casino staff.
The initiative has the
backing of casino bosses who are keen to move on from their disappointment over
the scaling down of the government's supercasino plans. They hope the new
academy will help them push the industry in new directions that will mean
upgrading the skills of its workforce.
It is the answer to the
industry's prayers, according to Geoff Pine, Greenwich College principal. "They
are looking for a rigorous quality-controlled country-wide training structure
with qualifications that support the industry and with an emphasis on
entertainment and social responsibility."
Over the next few years,
British casinos plan to take more of their income from bars, restaurants, shows
and the latest generation of gaming machines, and less from gambling at the
Students on the course will learn as much about the
importance of customer service and keeping the punters entertained as they will
about roulette terminology and spotting card-counting "cheats" at the blackjack
Colleen McLoughlin, the academy's coordinator and a lecturer in
casino operations management at Blackpool, says the new qualification will help
an expected 300 students a year understand why a winning smile is as important
as all the necessary technical abilities.
Banks of roulette machines
are threatening to displace the traditional tables in today's casinos. But
McLoughlin says that learning to deal the game remains a core discipline.
"Roulette is like the maths and English of our curriculum, because all the
skills you gain in learning to deal the game are transferable to all the other
The trainees based in Blackpool have been able to hone their
skills in a mock casino. Scot Hunter, 19, is one who has been grappling with
the complex mental calculations involved in paying off multiple winning bets at
the roulette table. "It's surprising, the work involved," he says. "It really
is much harder than it looks."
Students at the academy will be
introduced to the internal workings of increasingly sophisticated
computer-networked slot and gaming machines, which bring in a growing
proportion of casino income. Trainee croupier Katherine Litwinski, 21, wonders
whether this will eventually put dealers out of a job. But there's no need to
worry, insists Maxine McKenzie, a customer services lecturer assessing
students' performance. "Customers come to see the dealer," she says. "It's that
human interaction that makes their experience memorable. The really skilful
croupiers can make you feel like you've had a great night even if you've lost
all of your money. A machine can never do that."