Casino colleges: Ka-ching ka-ching
Based in part on geographic proximity and mission complementarity, higher education institutions cater to the fast changing skills development needs of the gaming industry. This is especially true in Las Vegas where UNLV supports the International Gaming Institute which features its prestigious Executive Development Program. UNLV provides knowledge on most aspects of casino management and with courses geared toward executive levels—future leaders of the next iteration of casinos and resorts are trained.
Massachusetts legislative and executive branch officials have debated gaming for over a decade. Yet, in the year ahead, design and construction will begin on new casinos—full of high end resort hotels, luxurious spas, world class entertainment, gourmet restaurants, upscale retail shops, and games of chance. All of this spurring sustainable jobs growth in the Bay State. Enter the role of higher education, the DNA of a well prepared casino and hospitality management workforce.
In Atlantic City, New Jersey Atlantic Cape Community College hosts the Caesars Entertainment Wing for Hospitality and Gaming Studies—a direct link between education and casino work experience. The Atlantic City model helps create casino human talent pools—providing education and proficiency for a growing casino smartcollar workforce. Former head of Atlantic Cape Community College’s Casino Career Institute and now President of North Shore Community College, Dr. Pat Gentile, spoke about the mission and role of community colleges in gaming education. “Community Colleges work hand-in-glove with employers who seek to recruit graduates, act as advisers to curriculum, and need trainers for their incumbent workers. This is just as true in the gaming and hospitality industry. To be a productive, competitive property, gaming employers need an across-the-board workforce possessing desirable soft skills as well as credentials in a particular skill area – like dealing, security and game protection, culinary arts and food service, sales and marketing, information systems, and slots installation and maintenance.”
In New York, the Seneca Gaming Corporation offers career oriented internships to aspiring casino and hospitality management students who benefit from casino supported experiential learning. This cross-training covers a broad range of the casino experience including food and beverage, human resource management, gaming policy and protocols, hotel management, marketing and sales, accounting, and finance. Importantly, these educational programs focus on integrity, ethics, addiction recovery and diagnosis, and other public policy implications.
What these several best of breed casino colleges and universities have in common is an educational, recreational, cultural, and entrepreneurial affinity to newly planned casinos. This confluence of development themes typically attract investment in human capital and transform the current workforce – all generated by the prospects of casino, hotel, hospitality, culinary arts, ecotourism, cultural tourism, and entertainment. Once licensed and constructed, these destination casinos typically attract co-development, high end upscale restaurants, boutiques, bistros, microbreweries, museums, and coastal adventures. In some ways the casino industry is ahead of the curve when one considers the close advisory connection between places like UNLV, Atlantic City, and now in Massachusetts. These established and aspiring gaming education and training programs are closely linked with the casino industry and can respond nimbly to changes in a somewhat fickle and over-regulated gaming market environment.
When you walk the boardwalk in Atlantic City, the streets of Greater Boston, and the Vegas Strip you can feel it in the air, read it in print, and watch it on television at night —culinary arts and hospitality have become the top form of edutainment in 2015—read as virtually every television channel offers programs that showcase hospitality and performance kitchen competitions.
Supply the demand
To meet the needs of high end kitchens and culinary showcases, sustainable agriculture and good to table programs need to ramp up to supply the new demand for organic food. Schools like Essex Technical High School are finding innovative ways to education the next generation of sustainable agricultural thought leaders.
By way of illustrative example, we learned from Dan O’Connell, Superintendent of Essex Tech, that high performance culinary arts education provides graduates with 21st Century skills and college readiness and proficiencies to meet growth for high quality hospitality management and culinary arts which is a major part of the enjoyment factor at casino destinations.
On the road ahead we can conceive of a Global Casino Higher Learning Network—a constellation of mission complementary colleges, universities, and institutes strategically partnered with casinos and resort destinations. These schools will train cohorts in every facet of the casino experience. For 2015 casino colleges that’s a winning hand.
—James Martin and James E. Samels, Future Shock columnists, are authors of The Sustainable University (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2012). Martin is a professor of English at Mount Ida College (Mass.) and Samels is president and CEO of The Education Alliance