Penn National taps local colleges to educate casino employees

on Friday, 15 June 2012.

Hondros College is partnering with the Hollywood Casino to handle elements of the dealer training program that will take place at the Haydocy car dealership near the casino on the city’s west side.

Hondros College is partnering with the Hollywood Casino to handle elements of the dealer training program that will take place at the Haydocy car dealership near the casino on the city’s west side.

As Central Ohio awaits the debut of its first casino, a new gambling initiative already is breaking new ground.

At the end of May, some 350 students started learning the finer points of poker, roulette, craps and blackjack at a former Haydocy Pontiac showroom on West Broad Street in Columbus. The school – a mini casino pit hidden behind gold curtains – is a collaboration between casino owner Penn National Gaming Inc.    Penn National Gaming Inc. Latest from The Business Journals Penn National plans 2014 opening for Youngstown track, VLT facilityOhio stakes honor on expanded gamingWeather, new competitor weigh on revenue for Kansas City-area casinos and Hondros College    Hondros College Latest from The Business Journals Social Madness surge puts entries at 110Casino to give applicants star treatmentRamped-up construction puts casino on pace for November opening.

The program is one of three partnerships involving the Hollywood Casino    Hollywood Casino Latest from The Business Journals Weather, new competitor weigh on revenue for Kansas City-area casinosHollywood Casino at Kansas Speedway settles into day-to-day issuesKansas Speedway starts work on new road track, revamps main oval of Columbus and area education institutions. Later this summer, Penn National will roll out similar initiatives with Central Ohio Technical College    Central Ohio Technical College Latest from The Business Journals Curriculum developer all businessCasino to give applicants star treatmentCountdown: Central Ohio colleges’ 2011 donations and Columbus State Community College    Columbus State Community College Latest from The Business Journals Curriculum developer all businessAEP’s Akins clarifies stance on HQ moveCasino to give applicants star treatment . The technical school will help the casino train workers in security and mechanical trades such as slot machine maintenance, while Columbus State will focus on culinary skills for the casino’s food and beverage operations, including a bakery, steakhouse, sports bar and 350-seat lounge at the gaming complex.

Unlike many of Penn National’s other host locations – often in rural areas – Columbus offers a bevy of schools that specialize in work-force development, said Ameet Patel, general manager of the Columbus casino. The institutions have positioned themselves as flexible and fast training centers in a rapidly changing economic and technological environment. Columbus State has developed programs in logistics and bioscience, for example, while Central Ohio Technical College is assisting the growing oil and gas industry in eastern Ohio.

“We’re in a very unique spot where we are surrounded by all these schools,” Patel said. “So we’re saying, ‘Why not take advantage of the resources we have?’ ”

From real estate to gambling

Tina Lapp, president of the Hondros business school, said the college initiated conversations with Penn National in early 2011 – even before the city and the gaming company had resolved an annexation dispute that threatened to derail the westside casino. Growing steadily from its roots in real estate education, Hondros has branched into mortgage, appraisal, home inspection, insurance, securities, personal fitness and nursing training.

In January, Penn National awarded Hondros a contract to help train employees for table games – poker, roulette, craps, blackjack. But Hondros didn’t get the whole education pie. Penn National also cut deals with schools with more expertise in culinary instruction (Columbus State) and mechanical trades (Central Ohio Technical College). The partnerships are unusual for Penn National, which typically does its own training, company executives said.

Educating dealers – a more time-consuming and laborious process than the other initiatives – became a top priority for Penn National as it prepares for its October grand opening. Hondros developed a possible curriculum, but Penn National ended up taking the lead.

“They have some very specific things and ways from their experience they wanted taught in the classroom,” Lapp said. “We’re really just preparing the books for them.”

With Hondros handling management of the program – that includes registration, tuition, administrative support – Penn National can focus on instruction.

“Their expertise is casino gaming,” Lapp said. “They know their industry. They know their brand.”

Penn National has set up a temporary operation at the Haydocy car dealership next to the casino construction site at West Broad Street and Georgesville Road. In addition to the dealer school, the casino’s administrative staff is housed in a trailer behind a body shop, and another former showroom has been transformed into a career center filled with renderings, placards and mannequins outfitted in snazzy uniforms.

Sorting through more than 3,000 online dealer applications, Penn National brought groups of 25 prospective employees through the career center, where they took basic math tests and were screened in group interviews. If they knew their arithmetic and lit up the room (eye contact, friendly, curious), applicants received conditional job offers contingent on background checks, drug and nicotine tests and the completion of the dealer-training program. (The casino has received more than 25,000 online applications for a projected 2,000 jobs.)

Tuition costs $200 per game each student learns, with the Central Ohio Workforce Investment Corp. covering expenses for eligible students. Patel said Penn National will reimburse the agency and those who pay out of their own pockets if employees stay with the company for a year. Dealers at sister Penn National casinos typically earn $35,000 to $40,000 annually.

Casino supervisors serve as teachers in the courses, which last eight to 10 weeks. The classes – five days a week, three hours a day – emphasize accuracy, speed and friendliness, Patel said.

In May, meanwhile, Hondros launched an independent dealer school in Cincinnati. The school could help students find work in gambling operations in Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, even at resorts or on cruise ships.

“Many individuals may get started here in Ohio, but they have several career options available to them,” Lapp said.

Other programs

Penn National executives expect to launch the Central Ohio Technical College program in the beginning of July and the Columbus State effort the following month. Patel said the Hondros partnership will serve as a model for the others. As with the dealer school, students in the other programs also will receive conditional job offers.

Details were sketchy in mid-June for the Columbus State and COTC programs. Columbus State spokesman David Wayne said the community college was waiting to hear more information from Penn National.

“We haven’t been able to develop any program because we still haven’t heard what they need specifically,” he said.

Casino executives said culinary training should take the least amount of time, so they’re emphasizing the other programs first.

Penn National is taking the lead again in developing a curriculum for the Central Ohio Technical College.

“They actually have some training models that they’ve used at some of their other casinos, so they are providing the foundation for us,” said Joy Padgett, the tech college’s director of government relations.

Tuition, coursework and other elements still are being worked out. Padgett predicts courses will be taught at the technical school’s Pataskala campus as well as at the casino. “We are very accustomed to doing custom training at employers’ sites,” said Padgett, a former legislator.

Premium content from Business First by Dave Ghose | For Business First

Date: Friday, June 15, 2012, 6:00am EDT - Last Modified: Thursday, June 14, 2012, 2:48pm EDT 

Premium content from Business First by Dave Ghose | For Business First

Date: Friday, June 15, 2012, 6:00am EDT - Last Modified: Thursday, June 14, 2012, 2:48pm EDT