Working nine to five would never suit Scott Clarkson, 21, of Layton. But lady luck has smiled upon him. He works as a croupier at Grosvenor (G) Casino Blackpool – an establishment open 24 hours a day.
Scott and fellow croupier Glenn Hunt both walked into work at the showcase seafront casino after training at Blackpool and the Fylde College which anticipated the need for such courses when Blackpool shaped its bid for a supercasino.
We may have missed out on the supercasino but poor old Manchester was the ultimate loser having had defeat snatched from the jaws of victory by Gordon Brown’s decision to scrap the super casino.
The resort was at the heart of the gaming world renaissance back in the 50s and 60s when clubs offered the chance to play poker or roulette and take in a show too. Today casinos are a far cry from the slightly seedy smoke-filled gambling dens of old.
And casinos are born-again big business in Blackpool again.
The Grosvenor, although 10 years old, sees 1,200 people go through its doors on a Saturday. It’s the current market leader in a resort which will see the £1m Paris Casino run by resort veteran Pierre Coulon reopening by Christmas after relocating (after a devastating fire at its Station Road site in 2009) to the Number One Club on Bloomfield Road. The new Paris is more than twice the size of the original. It’s already involved in an extensive recruitment and training programme with the local college’s regional gaming academy which delivers professional qualifications.
Blackpool also boasts the long established Circus Casino (still often referred to as the Castle Casino) on the Promenade and is due to get a fourth casino after Coral Island secured a gambling licence and planning permission for the 2012 season.
But Scott reckons the G Casino has the best location in the world alongside Sandcastle Waterpark in the thick of the tourism scene.
While it attracts its share of visitors it has a big local following too – and managers pitch for the residents with theme nights and special packages priced to sell.
Scott says the college course gave him a great grounding. “I enjoyed visited casinos during my leisure time and often thought I would love to work in one. So I went along to see the tutor Rick Dunston and was very impressed.
“It suited my family circumstances to train on a part-time basis, two days a week for 18 weeks. I really enjoyed the training, although it was definitely a learning environment it was very relaxed and we helped each other along as a team.
“The course prepared me very well for casino life. I learned everything game-wise required of me but also they gave me an insight of the gaming industry and the nature of the croupier’s job. We were warned of all the hours but that didn’t put me off!
“We did a few fun casinos towards the end of training which helped with dealing with ‘real’ customers. We did one at a charity function which I really enjoyed. The college is brilliant at helping you find work. Everyone that finished the course got a job in gaming. When the course finished I got a job in Manchester but after a year applied and got a job at the G Casino in Blackpool where it was always my aim to work as it’s such a lovely casino. I absolutely love my job. I love nights as I’m not the best at getting up early and I love being in an atmosphere where people are enjoying themselves and I know I have helped make their night more memorable. It’s lively and fun and there’s never any trouble.
“Last year I went back to college and did my level three which I have just finished. It focuses on customer service and communication and I enjoyed it so much I will be doing a foundation degree in casino management next year at the college with the aim of progressing through the rank at G Casino. All the managers here are really supportive and they all started as croupiers so I know I can achieve my goal.”
Croupiers work shifts with start times from 6am, 2pm or 10pm over a working five-day week. They deal a number of games, but the two classics are roulette and blackjack, roulette being the most popular.
Corporate events manager Joanne Hindle started out as a trainee dealer 26 years ago and trained Colleen McLaughlin, who now manages the college’s regional gaming academy. “It’s full circle getting croupiers from the college. We all start at the bottom so they know they have a chance of doing really well.
“It’s a very social casino as opposed to a traditional gaming casino and the age range is 18 to 80, anything from stag and hen groups, through to ladies enjoying one of the Desperate Housewives mini tournaments – the next is September 27 – or other packages. It’s quite surreal when you start on Monday morning and see 33 stags all having a good time having not been to bed!”