DANVILLE — Juris Basens turned an entry-level job as a dealer in the gambling industry into a 20-year career with Wilmorite Corp., helping to open the Par-A-Dice Casino in Peoria and others in Iowa, Louisiana, Mississippi and the Bahamas.
The new general manager of Golden Nugget Danville, set to open next year, said getting that first job in the industry can be the start of a long career.
“If you work hard and like being around people, if you put a smile on your face, you can be very successful,” Basens said.
Those in the area looking to get their foot in the door will now have a chance to get the training they need to qualify as part of a program led by Danville Area Community College. Under a contract between the school and the casino, Golden Nugget will make a $50,000 annual donation to DACC to help defray costs for the training program.
Brittany Woodworth, executive director of corporate education at DACC, said college officials will begin meeting with Wilmorite personnel “to get an actual timeline” of when they want the training to start.
One phase will be training dealers in the casino games including craps, roulette, poker and blackjack. Training will also be offered for slot-machine technicians, security and surveillance.
DACC President Stephen Nacco said many of the gambling machines “don’t get fixed like they used to. They’re all component parts. You open them up and replace the whole works.”
Those classes will run from four to six weeks and will be held at multiple times of the day “to hit the general population,” Woodworth said. “Many will want it for potentially second jobs.”
Said Basens, “You don’t have to have casino experience to be successful.”
Nacco said Wilmorite also wants the college to “ramp up our hospitality and management program.”
DACC has a popular culinary certificate that “just leads to maybe a sous-chef or fry-cook” position. With two restaurants, the new casino will need more advanced culinary students “as well as people in business and management.”
DACC will expand its culinary program into more of a degree that will transfer to a bachelor’s degree in restaurant management and hospitality.
Terry Cummings, dean of business and technology at DACC, said the college is looking to add a hospitality management degree — one in hotel management and one in restaurant management — along with a couple of certificates.
“We are in the very early stages of building that,” Cummings said.
Casino officials have not yet informed the college on what qualifications would be needed, Cummings said.
The casino will employ about 300 people. Wilmorite is committed to hiring 75 percent local people, 30 percent minorities, 40 percent women and 5 percent veterans.
Woodworth said there has been a great deal of interest from those wanting to start training, and DACC is “doing all the behind-the-scenes planning to hit the ground running. We’re working on securing a space (for training) and then need to find the trainers who will be trained by Golden Nugget employees.”
Marketing and advertising work also needs to be done, as does ordering the training equipment.
Woodworth said DACC officials have had “a couple of brainstorm sessions” with officials at the Casino Career Institute at Atlantic Cape Community Colleges in New Jersey, where more than 50,000 people have been trained since 1978 to work in the casino industry.
Basens said he will move to Danville within the next month to oversee the casino’s development and opening process.
“I enjoy opening and operating casinos,” he said. “I look forward to the opportunity. It’s the newness. I love a project like Danville’s because Danville hasn’t had a casino yet.
“From my point of view, I love watching the new employees come in, and you find the ones with the potential … and you help assist people on career paths. There’s no limit. There’s not a requirement (for previous training) unless you’re like a finance person of having degrees to succeed in a casino.”
Basens said casinos use a variety of sources to train employees — not just community colleges.
In some states, casinos choose to do the training themselves, while in others, workforce agencies are hired “to work cooperatively not only in training but recruiting.”