Casino set to open Nov. 5, seeks dealers
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By Jud Snyder  September 27, 2013 12:00 am

Paying tuition for a college education to help out your son or daughter is expensive. 

We’ve all read true stories, whether it’s Sonoma State University, UC Berkeley, Stanford, Yale or MIT of students graduating along with a student loan bill of $50,000 to $80,000 or more hanging over their future career like a dark cloud. 

There are many alternatives: community colleges, trade schools, online university courses or joining the military. They all offer a lot. 


Learning blackjack and baccarat

There’s another one and it doesn’t charge any tuition. This is learning the trade of how to become a blackjack, poker or baccarat dealer for the Graton Resort & Casino. The casino will open Nov. 5. 

Classes are taught at 6119 State Farm Drive, just a few doors north of RP Expressway in Rohnert Park. It’s not your familiar college campus, but then again, learning how to deal cards in a casino is hardly a college curriculum catalog entry.

The point person for this truly specialized educational venture is Joe Hasson, vice-president and general manager for Graton Resort & Casino. His “campus” is a huge room fitted with many professionally designed gambling tables suitable for all the card sports the casino will have. 


Need for 2,000 card dealers

“The casino will have 144 tables, and at this point I only have 850 dealers signed up and Station Casinos wants at least 2,000 by the time they’re fully operational,” Hasson said. “I have about 7,000 applicants registered, but I’m accepting more practically every day.”

The casino will be open 24 hours every day, and dealers at the tables will be needed and their time shifts on duty will be limited. They work 80 minutes and then have a 20-minute break before returning. The need for more trained dealers is obvious.

“Station Casinos gives a diploma to each graduate, and it takes 12 weeks of serious training to prepare them, sometimes less if they have experience,” he said. “Nobody forces them to join us. Nobody has to pay us to learn. Nobody forces them to join the union. I know of many cases where this diploma can be taken to other casinos, and they ‘have a leg up’ in getting a job elsewhere because they have a Station Casinos diploma.

“Really, the only requirement is they have to be 21 years of age or older.”


Learned the trade in Atlantic City

Hasson himself has been in the casino business for 32 years. Born and raised in Atlantic City, N.J., the 57-year old Hasson became a CPA for an Atlantic City hotel before Las Vegas  discovered the city as its East Coast branch and was only known back then as the city that provided addresses for Monopoly games. He quickly became a casino employee.

He’s been married for nearly 30 years, lives in Santa Rosa with his wife, and they have three adult children, two who have degrees from UC Berkeley and UC San Diego. The youngest lives at home.

Part of Hasson’s job includes setting up new business necessities, such as telephones and addresses. They have an address, 630 Park Court, Rohnert Park 94928. 

“We’re getting tons of mail there every day.” 

There’ll be two separate phone numbers, still to be assigned and Hasson has a phone number, which he was loath to give out. “I don’t want to be continually on the phone stuck in an office.” 


Most trainees are mature adults

The dealer training tables are staffed with trainees in their slots facing non-existing customers, just their trainers, moving from table to table. 

Potential dealers are both sexes, ages don’t seem to matter (except for the minimum of 21 years), and neither does skin color. Most are mature adults with a few baby-faced 21-year olds who probably have to show their birth certificates in any bar they enter. 

Hasson assumes the attrition rate is high: some sign up but never return, others leave after a few sessions and graduates can go anywhere with their diplomas. 

Parental prejudices about the gambling industry are consistently high in Sonoma County. Teens are influenced by their parents, and any measurable tally about a career for teens in blackjack dealing would probably be very low. 

But if Hasson needs 2,000 trained card dealers when the casino fully opens Nov. 5, the job ratio for graduates is pretty high compared to other job categories for mature adults in the North Bay. The country is still struggling to climb out of the economic recession and its high unemployment ratio.

The business out there on Golf Course Drive West has adopted Graton Resort & Casino as its name. 

No longer a need for Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria, however, the Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU) the tribe has with Rohnert Park and Sonoma County still stands as a legal document.

Here’s a final tip from Hasson: “A good candidate for this business is someone who doesn’t know how to play blackjack or baccarat. I don’t have to un-train them of bad habits they might have learned elsewhere.”

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