Learning to deal–and getting college credit for it

The dramatic expansion of tribal gaming in California and across the country is fueling a demand for skilled dealers, and some educators are anteing up–with the help of international poker ace Johnny Chan.

Gatlin Education Services, a Texas-based group that specializes in online instruction, has begun offering casino-gaming courses in an arrangement with the Johnny Chan Academy. The three courses–how-to instruction for dealing poker, black jack and baccarat–are being presented through more than 130 colleges and universities across the country. Those include a half-dozen in campuses in California, including CSU Stanislaus, Los Angeles Valley College and National University.

The curriculum and training were developed by the Johnny Chan Academy and vetted by Gatlin. The registration and fees are handled by the individual school. The baccarat course runs $1,195 for 75 hours of instruction, and the other two courses on casino blackjack and casino poker, are $1,395 each for 100 hours, said Gatlin spokeswoman Carmen Martinez.

“It includes everything [students] need–a Web camera, playing-card felt, cards, chips, a welcome package, a glossary and a guidebook,” she said. The programs were offered for the first time for this semester.

Going to college to learn how to deal cards my sound dicey, but the Chan Academy thinks it makes sense. Is there really enough work out there for casino dealers to warrant college-level training?

“That’s the question I asked myself, too. The answer is this: Go to the Department of Labor’s Web site and check the statistics on industry growth. Casino gaming grew at least 15 percent last year, and the reason it is growing so fast is that everybody loves to gamble. The Native American casinos are growing stronger,” said Kevin Upton, managing partner in the Johnny Chan Academy, which was formed in 1993.

Upton said the Academy hopes to become the principal training arm of casino dealers. “We’ve been in contact with all the casino operators offering ourselves as an employment agency. We’ve got a patented video exam process. We’ve got experts who evaluate the student, and by the end of the class we require them to create a video profile of themselves.”

Chan, 50, is well-known in poker circles. He has won $5.9 million, including $3.7 million through the World Series of Poker. Born in China, he came to the United States in 1962. His family owned restaurants, and he intended to go into the restaurant business. While attending the University of Houston, however, he decided to become a professional gambler and moved to Las Vegas.

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