Adjacent to the Caesars Virginia construction zone in Danville stands a group of trailers that serve as classrooms. Inside each trailer are multiple game tables, Caesars instructors and lots of local trainees.
It’s a high-energy scene, with several demonstrations going on simultaneously, and four or five trainees gathered around each table.
About 80 local residents attend the Caesars Virginia dealer training school for four-hour classes Monday through Friday. The classes run for four, six or 11 weeks, depending on the games the students want to learn.
“Everybody has to learn blackjack,” said instructor Matthew Muckey, who came from the Caesars location in Indianapolis to train dealers in Danville.
The dealer school also offers novelty — or poker derivative — games, like three-card poker, Mississippi Stud, Ultimate Texas Hold ’Em and Let it Ride.
The four-week course teaches blackjack. The six-week course teaches blackjack and novelty games. The 11-week course teaches blackjack as well as roulette and baccarat.
And dealers will have the opportunity to learn more games even after they begin working, said Chris Albrecht, Caesars Virginia general manager.
“We can bring them back in and train them in more games once we open,” he said. “So if they don’t know all the games, we’ll continue their education down the line.”
Even after the casino opens, the dealer training will continue. Caesars Virginia is looking to hire 450 employees for the temporary casino, and 100 of those will be dealers, Albrecht said, adding that there are part-time and full-time opportunities.
“We will always need dealers, so dealer school will just be a continual thing we do even once the temporary [casino] opens, and then we’ll need a much larger group for the permanent casino,” Albrecht said. “This will just go on and on and on. You can never have enough dealers.”
While Caesars still hasn’t announced an opening date for the temporary casino, visible progress is being made. The semi-permanent tent that will house the temporary facility is entirely up and a parking lot has been paved.
Now, Caesars is working on getting the inside of the tent ready, Albrecht said.
“We have 700 slot machines in there now, and we’re going to have 740 slot machines in the temporary facility total, so almost all of them are here,” he said. “We’re getting much closer, and you can tell by the way these schools are running that we’re getting them ready for an opening day soon.”
In addition to the slot machines, the temporary facility will have 25 table games. The permanent casino will have 85 table games and 1,300 slot machines.
“That’s why we need this many dealers,” Albrecht said, “to run those tables 24/7.”
The dealer training involves lots of hands-on experience and demonstrations, Muckey said.
“We develop a syllabus for each class,” he said. “For example, one day we’ll learn blackjack payouts and insurance, the next day we’ll learn EZ Bust. The syllabus makes sure that everyone learns the same exact thing in the same order.”
Everyone learns at a different pace, Muckey said. “But in the end, they all get there.”
Each class is offered at four different times of day, as early as 8 a.m. and as late as 9 p.m. There’s also a weekend makeup session.
“We try to make it flexible for everybody,” Albrecht said. “Whether you have child care issues or a current job, hopefully you can still make one of those four class options.”
The position advertises that dealers can earn up to $20 an hour, but Albrecht said it will probably be more.
“Based on current comps, that will likely be higher as they get going,” he said, adding that being a dealer is a tipped position, and “those that take full-time positions will have access to our benefit program.”
Albrecht said that it’s commonplace to open a dealer school in localities with anticipated casinos, because there are so many dealer positions to fill. Caesars hopes to hire most of them locally.
Caesars Virginia will also hire some experienced dealers from other markets, he said, but that will be a much smaller group because of logistical considerations, like moving to the area.
“We’ll train most of the group,” Albrecht said. “There’s no previous experience needed. We’ll teach you everything you need to know.”
The most important quality an aspiring dealer should have is people skills, said Muckey and Albrecht.
“It’s guest service all the way,” Albrecht said. “You’ve got to be happy, engaging the guests. You’ve got to like people and being around people.”
Having math skills is helpful too, he said, but actually less crucial than people think.
“Math is important, but there’s only so many payouts, so it becomes a routine, and it’s more about understanding the colors and different betting patterns,” he said. “Once they teach you those things, it’s really less about needing to be very strong mathematically, and more about understanding the games.”
Whitney Rankin, a Caesars dealing instructor who specializes in teaching roulette, said that she was actually “awful at math growing up.”
“My dad was an electrical engineer, and he always tried to teach me math, and now he thinks it’s hilarious that I work with numbers,” Rankin said. “But everyone can do it. Anyone can do it, I can almost guarantee you.”
Gathered around one table, trainees Marty Davis, Dawn Scarce, Tina Walker and Tiffany Hogan watched a demonstration by instructor Peyton Wrenn. The trainees said they were interested in becoming dealers for a variety of reasons.
“This is unlike any job I’ve ever worked,” Davis said. “And I’ve worked more than one or two in my life. This is definitely different.”
Hogan said she likes to play cards and thought being a dealer sounded like a lot of fun.
And Scarce said it’s exciting to be a part of something unique. “It’s a new experience coming to Danville,” she said. “It’s cool to be in the forefront of that.”
Being a dealer is a great way to get started in the casino industry, Albrecht said.
“A lot of leaders at our company, they started out as dealers,” he said. “That’s the biggest entry-level position in our company. … It’s not just a job, but a career advancing opportunity for people.”
Caesars is still hiring, Albrecht said, and anyone who is interested can find positions listed on its website. The company is also working to partner with local businesses, restaurants and nonprofit organizations for services both inside and outside the casino.
“We’re going to need support for our customers to utilize local hotels, restaurants, golf courses,” Albrecht said. “And there are things we need inside the building, like cleaning services, food supply, things like that are all valuable. We have a lot of national contracts, but we also have the opportunity to do things here locally.”
And many local residents have also been hired for senior level positions at Caesars. It’s not just entry-level opportunities available to Danvillians, Albrecht said.
Caesars is even working to recruit employees throughout the region, in other counties in Virginia and in North Carolina.
The most exciting part of this process for Albrecht is building the team from the ground up and creating home-grown talent, he said.
“Usually when you go to a location, you mesh with a team that’s already there, and those are great experiences too, but it’s very unique to get to literally build everything from the beginning.” he said. “I always tell people, the Caesars culture and the Danville culture get to merge together with Caesars Virginia.”