September 3, 2011

Applicants hope to score jobs at new Mulvane casino

Myra Banzet fumbled with a stack of casino chips until she had split them into a series of smaller, evenly stacked piles with one hand, like a real dealer. Then she laughed.

Myra Banzet fumbled with a stack of casino chips until she had split them into a series of smaller, evenly stacked piles with one hand, like a real dealer. Then she laughed.

"Do I get a job?" she asked.

Jobs are what it was all about as the Kansas Star Casino launched its dealers school this week, offering the surreal sight of casino gaming tables filling an office building on Main Street in Mulvane.

Banzet, who has been unemployed for a year and a half, is one of 80 students at the school.

The students, split into two sessions, will train four hours a day, five days a week through the rest of the year, right up until the Kansas Star opens its interim casino at Mulvane's turnpike exit in early 2012.

Banzet, a single mother from Wichita, said she thought it would be good to learn the business from the bottom up.

"This seemed like a good place to start," she said.

She has been in casinos, she said, but doesn't gamble.

"I have a philosophy: Don't bet what you can't lose. And when you're unemployed, you can't lose a lot," she said.

The 80 students were culled from 800 applicants after taking a written test designed to determine their math skills and knowledge of playing cards, and after interviews with Kansas Star representatives.

"This group was selected based on personality, our perception that they can learn the rules and aren't afraid to get up in front of the public," said Scott Cooper, Kansas Star's general manager.

Many are unemployed. A high percentage are from the aircraft and auto industries, according to the casino.

All the applicants are from Kansas, and most are from the Wichita metro area. There are 45 women in the classes, and 35 men.

The casino will employ slightly more than 100 dealers, Cooper said, so it has backup candidates on file.

It will employ about 500 people overall when it opens, and 800 when it is completed in 2015. About 7,000 people have applied for the jobs, which will have an average salary of $38,000 overall. The casino still is taking job applications at its website,

The interim casino will open inside the Kansas Star's equestrian/events center with 32 gaming tables, as well as 1,310 slot machines.

It will have 50 tables and 2,000 slot machines when completed.

In the next few months, students will learn to deal blackjack, mini baccarat, three-card poker, pai gow and other games.

Some will advance to more complex games like craps and roulette, Cooper said.

"By the end of that process, they should be able to walk onto a casino floor and deal a game," he said.

They are not guaranteed jobs.

"The expectation is that some will leave on their own, some will leave because they haven't demonstrated the aptitude to do it. But it's expected that more than half will make it through the school and go onto the floor," Cooper said.

The first day, Wednesday, they learned gambling terminology, the rules of the casino, the chain of command, even tips on getting tips (never solicit them), and what to do if they accidentally drop a chip on the casino floor (do not pick it up).

Like any other school getting under way this fall, this school has its own cheer:

"Who's a star?" shouts an instructor.

"I'm a star!" students answer.

"What kind of star?"

"A Kansas star!"

The first day they worked on how to "cut checks." Checks are chips, and cutting them means arranging them in certain groupings, using the fingers of one hand.

"No thumbs! Fingers only!" shouted Penny Wrich, one of four trainers at the school. Wrich has worked in casinos since 1994.

Robert Fleming, 69, who lost his job as a corporate trainer for Protection One on April 1 when the job was transferred to Texas, pointed out another valuable lesson.

"You have to like talking to people," he said. "The better rapport, or customer service, you can give at the table, the better your job is going to be."

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