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Betting on controversy
Like in many workplaces, playing the lottery is a hit where I work. It’s completely innocent and fun — we simply have a sign-up sheet for whoever wants to play and we chip in to buy the ticket. I don’t know about my co-workers, but every time that I’d forget to sign the sheet and give my twoonie for the Friday sweepstakes, I’d feel significant anxiety. Maybe it was because I imagined my co-workers on their private islands sipping blue drinks with umbrellas in them while I was the only person in my cubicle in an empty office. A voice always echoed in my head only to compound my anxiety further: “If you don’t buy the ticket, you’ve no chance to win!” “Small risk, big reward!” (Who was that voice?) Anyway, for a short while I kept playing — and not only out of fear of being left out but also because I too fantasize about living on a tropical island — but it was making me nervous. Eventually, I decided to stop. The anxiety wasn’t worth it and I just had come to peace with the possibility of my fantasy not coming true.
Sure, a workplace lottery is no big deal, but gambling is and remains a huge controversial issue in current society. If you’ve ever been to the Fallsview Casino in Niagara Falls, you would have noticed signs and posters that include the provincial Problem Gambling Helpline telephone number posted directly in front of entrances. The numbers are also posted on slot machines. And the resort — like many other casinos — offers you the option to ban yourself from its venue. (This is a program initiated by the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation [OLG].)
Recently, in Toronto, there was a lot of debate about building an entertainment complex with a casino. As of May 2012, Now magazine reported that the debate has been put on hold, at least until a City Council staff report is completed (scheduled for October 2012) about the “pros and cons of setting up a permanent gambling complex in the city.” Richard Florida spoke on CBC’s Metro Morning when the idea first surfaced and said, “If you polled virtually every urbanist and everyone who’s studied urban economic development — Conservative, Liberal, NDP, right, left, centre — everyone would agree that casinos, as an economic development tool, are an unmitigated disaster.” He cited the costs of keeping a casino opened, combined with increased police force and higher crime as trumping the benefits that a presence of such business would generate. Add to it, the prevalent gambling addiction problem in the province, with 3.4 per cent of the population affected, and the casino idea looks even less favourable.
Finally, there’s some fear that building a casino in Toronto will affect smaller communities in Ontario. “If jobs are lost in Orillia, Niagara or Windsor due to increased pressure from a new GTA casino, it will impact the province. Unemployed hospitality industry workers will have tough choices to make: move to where the jobs are (like the GTA) but where the cost of living is much higher, or go on unemployment or welfare,” Julie Langpeter writes in The Orillia Packet & Times.
However, the many problems of building a casino in Toronto pales in the face of the fact that this venture would bring a lot of new jobs to the city. And if you’re one of those people whose dream is to work in an entertainment industry a casino is a great place to do so. If the casino does get built, there will probably be hundreds of jobs opening — from retail positions in the complex to janitorial positions to gigs right out of the movies such as dealer,casino bank cashier, table inspector or investigative security officer.
The article Casino and Gaming Industry talks about some of the pros and cons of working in a casino, such as:
- A lively atmosphere – great for those who enjoy other people and love being around rowdy, energetic crowds. This is the place to surely meet interesting characters though some of them will resemble zombies with their arms stuck in slot machines and a blank look in their eyes.
- An emotional rollercoaster – zombies aside, in “the course of a single shift, you’ll be expected to interact with customers riding the high of post-jackpot jubilation and those who just lost thousands of dollars in the blink of an eye. If you’re compassionate and can read and respond to people well, this may be a great role for you.”
The Casino Industry Occupations article talks about other aspects of working in this industry such as the strict dress code, working under high pressure, and needing an ability to deal with difficult people and situations. Other issues, more specific to a particular job (or even a game) may arise as well, for example as with blackjack dealers: “Blackjack games have extra dealers to make sure that the blackjack dealers have 20-minute breaks every hour because the game is so intense.” Or consider another game, craps, “the most complicated dice game on the floor. Each crap game requires three dealers and a supervisor called a ‘box person’ who guards the chips, resolves any conflicts and keeps a close eye on what is a fast and furious game. The stickperson who is the most skilled dealer at the crap game, calls the bets and moves the dice with a long stick, retrieving the dice and returning them for the next roll. Other dealers place and pay bets.”
Oh, yeah, that’s another aspect of working on the floor in a casino, where your job is connected specifically with assisting gamblers — you have to be particularly sharp in essential skills like numeracy, use of documents, communication and so on. Take some of the essential skills listed under table games inspector.
- Table games inspectors read and fill in a large number of detailed forms every shift. They read detailed forms or get oral information from the dealers. Speed, attention to detail, and the large sums of money involved increase the difficulty of document handling.
- They maintain a daily pit log, keep inventories, table counts and report; they also write up employee evaluations and corrective actions.
- Inspectors listen for signals from dealers to inform them of the progress of play at all tables. They determine the corrective procedure when an error is made. They monitor and coach dealers and draw attention to weakness in procedures.
- Table games inspectors track discrepancies and monitor dealers. They decide how to deal with errors, complaints and plan the rotation of dealers.
- Inspectors are constantly in touch with the dealers but without making eye contact. Both take frequent breaks to relieve the stress of constant attention to so many details.
If you’re still reading and this doesn’t scare you at all, the Casino Industry Occupations article has some suggestions on how to break into the gaming industry. The three tips listed (amended) are:
- Start small – you probably won’t get hired at a top casino with no past experience in the industry. The article suggests setting your sights lower and learning the ropes at a lesser-known place. In other words, by the time the casino makes it to Toronto, you might just be ready to bet high (more so than if you were to start right now, with no experience).
- Follow instructions – casinos are places that absolutely and fully rely on details and procedures. You have to adhere to them, period.
- Strike the right balance – too bubbly is bad and too indifferent is probably even worse. The article suggests aiming for “a manner that is deeply courteous while remaining impeccably professional.”