The Saratoga Casino and Raceway is so eager for trained employees that it will offer a scholarship to the four best students taking casino classes at Schenectady County Community College.
The scholarships will begin next year and will go to students in their second year of the new casino and gaming management program.
The two-year program leads to an associate degree and, hopefully, a career at a casino.
Starting wages at Saratoga would be in the high $20,000s and low $30,000s, said Crystal Howard, marketing media specialist for the Saratoga Casino and Raceway.
“They basically will be qualified for most any of our jobs,” she said, adding that there’s “a plethora” of administration and marketing jobs in addition to jobs as hosts on the gaming floor.
But there’s not a plethora of qualified applicants.
“That’s the real reason we’re doing this,” she said. “In this area, there’s just us. There’s not a lot of experience working at casinos.”
Many of the casino’s employees came with experience at out-of-state casinos or Turning Stone. Those who graduate from SCCC’s program will have the next best thing to that experience, she said.
“It gives them the edge” over other applicants, she added. “You have a really valuable experience you can’t get outside the industry.”
The need for qualified workers might become even more pressing next year. A referendum this November will decide whether to expand casino gambling in the state.
Denise Murphy McGraw, chairwoman of the SCCC board of trustees, said she’s sure the casino industry will grow here. Officials at the Saratoga Casino and Raceway asked SCCC to add classes on casino work to prepare future employees.
“We developed this course really because of them. They came to us,” she said. “For them, it would be more cost-efficient to have a workforce already developed. These partnerships are really what we’re trying to do.”
And SCCC’s programs in culinary arts and hotel management require similar classes on hospitality.
“This is a natural progression for us,” she said.
Students will also learn how to run table games and manage the flow of a casino floor. In addition, they’ll learn the laws and regulations regarding gambling, and how to watch for signs of gambling addiction.
There are 16 students enrolled in the program, which started this month. Next year, four of them will win the scholarship: $1,250 per semester for their final two terms.
The students who win the scholarship must have a minimum cumulative grade-point average of 3.0 and at least 30 credits toward graduation.
Saratoga Casino and Raceway intends to continue offering the scholarship every year.