Bally’s recruiting dealers for Chicago casino

Casino, City Colleges of Chicago partner to fill 300 jobs for temporary Medinah Temple location expected to open this summer.

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Latasha Gilmer, who signed up for Bally’s Chicago’s training to become a casino table games dealer, stands outside Harold Washington College in the Loop after an informational session on Friday.

Latasha Gilmer signed up Friday for Bally’s Chicago’s training to become a casino table games dealer.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Latasha Gilmer doesn’t really play cards, but she’s interested in becoming a dealer at the Bally’s casino that’s coming to Chicago.

“I have no experience, but I’m very eager to learn,” Gilmer said. “I know it may be challenging.”

She and other curious people attended an informational session Friday at Harold Washington College to hear about what it takes to get the gig.

The casino is looking to hire 300 dealers for jobs that start at $9.50 an hour plus tips.

Bally’s and City Colleges of Chicago partnered to host the session. A series of additional informational sessions are scheduled this month.

Bally’s employees greet a man at Harold Washington College during Friday’s informational session about training to become a casino table games dealer for Bally’s Chicago casino, which is set to open later this year.

Bally’s employees greet a potential recruit at Harold Washington College during an informational session Friday.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Gilmer would have to attend “dealer school” at Bally’s Near North Side office. The school would be for four hours a day, five days a week, for 12 to 16 weeks. It consists of primarily handling cards, chips and dice. Aspiring dealers will not get paid for attending dealer school.

Classes begin in April. Dealers who complete the course, pass an “audition” and obtain a gaming license will be able to hit the casino floor when it opens this summer at the company’s temporary location at the Medinah Temple, 600 N. Wabash Ave. Bally’s hopes to open its permanent casino, which still needs to be built on the site of the Chicago Tribune Freedom Center publishing site in River West, in 2026.

Dexterity with cards and the ability to do quick math are only part of the job.

“Dealers are entertainers,” said Kate McMahon, Bally’s vice president of human resources. “You want somebody who can be comfortable but can also have fun, someone who’s upbeat and friendly but can manage the game at the same time. The biggest hurdle can be just remembering that it has to be fun.”

Karam and Ana Jahjah are married and both are 65. They live in Albany Park and, because they’re retired, they wake up and work out, watch a lot of television shows and occasionally gamble at Rivers Casino Des Plaines.

The idea of becoming dealers intrigued them.

“But doing the quick math, it’s kind of scary for me right now,” Ana Jahjah said.

Tarcisio Rojas, a Bally’s shift manager and dealer school instructor, said he started in the casino business 26 years ago by attending a job fair after he became burned out working as a sous-chef.

“You’re dealing with chips and money, so that made me nervous. But everybody was great at dealer school, they calmed you down, they make you aware that any mistake you make, you can correct it,” he said.

People starting out are expected to learn one or two of the casino’s core games of roulette, craps, blackjack and baccarat.

Learning more games can add 25 or 50 cents to an hourly wage.

“The goal is to be comfortable,” McMahon said. “If you’re out there and you’re not comfortable or you make errors, it’s going to create an environment you do not want to be in.”

Steven Clark, 59, of Lansing, works at the Horseshoe casino in Hammond as a dealer but attended the informational session to see if maybe he’d want to make a change.

“I really do love the job, but it might be nice to make some more friends and really get to enjoy Chicago,” he said.

The hardest part of the job for him is dealing with hotheads.

“Someone might be disgruntled about losing money and blame me for it, and you’ve just got to be patient and a good listener and let them blow off steam and not be offended by it,” he said.

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