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2015 March 16 - 11:34 pm

Casino Management Program A Hit at Schenectady College

Program Attracting Students as Nearby Gambling Hall Prepares To Open Its Doors

SCHENECTADY, N.Y. (AP) — Changing careers could be a gamble, but sometimes pursuing something new is worth the risk.

Michael Favata, 43, was looking for a new job after retiring as a Navy officer and moving back to Schenectady. He decided to search the Schenectady County Community College website to possibly enroll in the entrepreneurship program, but stumbled upon the college’s casino and gaming management program instead.

“I clicked the gaming link by mistake and thought that it looked fascinating,” Favata said.

Favata is older than most of the 57 other students in the program, but he said his classmates inspire him. He recently participated in the program’s first lab, where students practice playing and working on table games like craps, roulette and poker.

But Favata isn’t aiming for a job as a table game dealer. He has his eyes on a management position, ideally at the future Rivers Casino and Resort at Mohawk Harbor, which is expected to be up and running on the old Alco site less than a mile from the SCCC campus in about two years.

Matt Grattan, executive director of workforce development at SCCC, said interest in the program has been growing rapidly since the state Gaming Facility Location Board recommended Rivers Casino for a license as one of the first commercial casinos in the state.

The $330 million project is a planned development by Rotterdam developer the Galesi Group and Rush Street Gaming of Chicago. The casino is part of Galesi’s plans to revitalize the 60- acre Alco property with apartments, condominiums and townhouses, as well as retail and office space, plus a Courtyard by Marriott hotel. The total price tag for the entire project is a whopping $480 million.

“The phones are ringing, and there is certainly interest since the casino announcement,” Grattan said.

SCCC launched the gaming program in September 2013, less than two months before voters approved the expansion of casino gaming in the state as part of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Upstate NY Gaming and Economic Development Act. In addition to Schenectady, casino projects in Sullivan and Seneca counties were also recommended for casino licenses.

Before the Rivers Casino opens its doors, Grattan said SCCC is gearing up to expand its gaming program to ensure students are qualified for jobs and the city has resources to deal with security and problem gambling.

The two-year program, which requires students to complete at least 61 credits to earn an associate degree, has courses in gaming operations, food and beverage, security and surveillance, and tourism. Students are also required to do a three-credit internship at Saratoga Casino and Raceway in Saratoga Springs.

The college is looking to offer more courses in problem gambling, Grattan said. Faculty members are working with the New York Council on Problem Gam bling to educate students on how to recognize characteristics of gambling addiction.

SCCC is also planning to add new noncredit training programs that teach basic skills for employment, such as food preparation and housekeeping for the casino’s restaurants and hotel.

“Our beverage management and hospitality programs will benefit from a casino here, as well,” said Martha Asselin, SCCC’s acting president. “Communications, marketing and psychology are also skill sets that Rush will look for in employees.”

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