Wednesday, July 1, 2009

IRs snap up casino-course students

By Mavis Toh

Sceptical eyebrows were raised when private schools rolled out casino-related courses in the lead-up to the opening of the two integrated resorts (IRs), the first of which opens at the end of this year. But Singaporeans who betted on such courses to help them land jobs at the two IRs are being snapped up. And at least five private schools offering such courses are seeing a boom in enrolment numbers.

In just the last six months, about 250 people have enrolled in vocational casino school International Club Games Training Centre (ICG) for three- and five-month-long courses.

Since it started in 2006, the school has been getting about 300 students a year.

At ERC Institute, enrolment for its year-long tourism and hospitality sector courses, which have modules in casino management, went up from 400 in 2007 to 600 last year.

As for the EASB East Asia Institute of Management, enrolment in its 30-month-long casino-related courses jumped by up to 50 per cent to 500 students this year.

Said EASB's head of school, Dr Eric Lim: 'People are getting increasingly interested in casino programmes.'

The private schools started offering casino courses, costing thousands of dollars, in 2007. Eager students signed up, hoping that their newfound knowledge would land them jobs at the IRs.

But industry observers were sceptical, noting that casinos elsewhere preferred to train new recruits in their 'house styles'.

But the schools are having the last laugh. The five The Sunday Times spoke to said most of their students have landed jobs as dealers and dealer inspectors at the IRs.

Dealer inspectors ensure that there is no cheating at the tables, and manage the dealers, among other duties.

ICG head Ramachandar Siva said about 900 of his students have secured positions at the two IRs.

Seven of the 14 students who took casino-related courses at the School D'Hospitality (SD'H) have already been offered dealer positions at the IRs, said director Yeh Choy Yan.

Mr Wester Lim, 29, a former auxiliary police officer who took a course at SD'H, said: 'The interviewers asked specific questions on calculating chip change and when I answered correctly, that probably impressed them.'

He has landed a job as a dealer at one of the IRs.

Marina Bay Sands (MBS) and Resorts World at Sentosa spokesmen said they view applicants who have attended prior training in the sector as having shown commitment.

But they added that they will still hire applicants with no gaming background and provide training for them.

MBS is now offering letters of intent to more than 1,000 Singaporeans for jobs as dealers, dealer inspectors and pit supervisors.

Pit supervisors manage pit personnel and make sure there is no cheating.

Both IRs still have thousands of positions to fill.

Of the first batch hired by MBS, all are Singaporeans and 80 per cent are between 20 and 40 years old. Nearly two-thirds are male.

At ICG, where 47 per cent of its students are females, most are aged between 21 and 32. Almost 60 per cent are diploma or degree holders. Most of its 1,200 students are local, with many already holding jobs.

'They are looking for a career switch to a job that's more satisfying,' said Mr Ramachandar. 'Casinos often offer better salary packages and career prospects.'

Retired chief steward Alex Chua, 58, decided a second career in the gaming industry would keep his mind active.

He took a five-month course in casino floor management at ICG last year. Now, he has secured a job as a dealer at one of the IRs.

'It's similar to my airline job where the aim is to provide good service,' said Mr Chua. 'It's a challenging environment to work in. I don't want to retire and be bored.'

This article was first published in The Straits Times.


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