Careers in Casino Operations Management: Top Career Paths and How to Get Started
For those who like working in a fun, fast-paced work environment, casino operations can be the ideal career path. Similar to other leadership roles in hospitality, casino managers can earn a high salary without needing an advanced degree or other expensive training. It’s a growing industry, too, expected to grow by about 17% by 2031, which translates to ample job opportunities. If you’re considering a casino management career, learning more about the typical work environment, responsibilities, and career paths can help you decide if it’s the right choice for you.
What does a casino manager do?
Like other managers in customer service businesses, gaming management professionals ensure all on-site operations and activities are running smoothly and providing high-quality customer service. This starts with hiring, training, scheduling, and supervising other casino staff, like dealers for table games, security personnel, food and beverage employees, and anyone else employed by the business. They also keep an eye on the casino floor, making sure slot machines and other equipment is in working order, and overseeing all the betting and gambling taking place on-site.
The casino industry is highly regulated, and this is one way the role of casino manager differs from other hospitality management positions. Gaming laws can vary from state to state or even city to city, and casino managers need to understand these regulations fully. Casino managers also need more math and statistics knowledge than others in hospitality since they may be called on to determine odds, payouts, jackpots, and other numbers related to betting.
Schedule and work environment of casino managers
As a rule, casinos are 24/7 businesses, and that means employees need to be there day and night. Managers may not need to be on-site for overnight shifts but they do often work outside the traditional 9-5 schedule, and may be on-call for any problems that happen during late night and early morning shifts, or to provide coverage for employee call-offs during these non-standard hours.
The environment in a casino is also a bit more chaotic than what you’d get in a standard workplace. When it’s busy they can get hectic and loud, with machines that have flashing lights and noises adding to the noise made by customers and staff. Many casinos also still allow indoor smoking, even in areas where it’s been banned in other businesses. These aren’t necessarily deal breakers for people who enjoy working in a high-energy environment, but it may be an issue for people who prefer a calmer setting.
Typical education of casino operations managers
Many roles in a casino don’t require any formal education, and you can get a job as a dealer, bartender, server, or other customer-facing roles without even completing a high school diploma. Whether this is still true at the management level depends on the employer and how much industry experience the candidate has accrued.
Most casino managers have at least a high school diploma or GED. According to figures from Zippia, about half (48%) of casino managers hold a bachelor’s degree, while 17% hold just a high school diploma and 18% have an associate degree. Those who take on management roles without a bachelor’s degree tend to have extensive experience in the gaming industry.
As far as which degree you should get, that largely depends on which area of casino management you want to focus on. A bachelor’s degree in hospitality management or casino management will serve for any casino leadership role. Other popular degree options include business administration, accounting, finance, and other fields related to business and revenue management.
Do you need a license to be a casino manager?
In the U.S., all casino employees who handle money are required to be licensed by the state in which they work, and this includes casino managers. There are three types of licenses for gaming employees: key gaming employee, gaming employee, and gaming service employee. The key gaming employee license is often split further into executive and standard licenses.
Which type of license you need, and the requirements and process to obtain it, depends on where you work and in what role. Most casino managers have a key executive license since they’ll interact directly with gaming patrons, revenue, and equipment. A background check is required as part of the application process, as well as a review of your credit history and tax returns. The main things they’re looking for are financial crimes and felony convictions. Individuals cannot obtain a gaming license if they’ve been convicted of a felony within the last 15 years. Older felonies will be assessed based on their severity and the nature of the crime.
The good news is, you won’t need to worry about getting a license before you apply for casino management jobs. A job offer from a casino industry business is required to obtain a gaming license. If you’re hired, your employer will tell you what license you need and help you to apply for it.
Skills required for casino management
The key skills for a casino operations manager are similar to other leadership roles in the hospitality industry. These include communication, customer service, and effective personnel and resource management. Operations managers also need to be very attentive with a good eye for details, allowing them to effectively monitor the activity on the gaming floor and correct any developing issues before they become serious problems. Operations managers are also responsible for coordinating the activities in a casino. This means being able to forecast business based on past trends to schedule the right types and number of employees.
The main thing casino managers need that other hospitality managers don’t is knowledge of the gaming industry. Management is responsible for making sure the casino is in compliance with all laws and regulations, and to do that they need to know what those laws are. They also need to be familiar with the games played in their facility, as well as concepts like determining odds, betting and jackpot systems, and the operation and maintenance of casino equipment like slot machines. This is why experience in a casino is often the most important requirement, though students can also learn this information in a casino management degree program.
Entry-level roles to gain casino experience
Many roles in a casino don’t require any specific experience or education, and any that interact directly with gamblers, games, or casino operations will help you build the skills and knowledge managers need. When choosing an entry-level role that leads to management, where you work can sometimes be more important than the specific job title. It’s common for casinos to promote from within, for one thing, so an entry-level role could turn into a management position down the line. Remember, too, that casino industry regulations vary from state to state, and not all casinos offer the same betting and game options. The better your experience matches the needs of your ideal employer, the more likely you’ll be to get hired there.
As far as specific roles, it’s common for managers to start off as dealers, slot attendants, or croupiers. This gives you direct experience with the games and players, and is a great way to learn the rules, regulations, betting strategies, and other details about these activities hands-on. Others start out in security and casino surveillance, which can be a great role to learn monitoring skills and how to spot common problems, along with skills like conflict resolution, customer service, and communication.
Those interested in going into the financial management side of casinos may want to start off as a cage cashier. These are the people who exchange money for chips when players arrive, then change them back when they’re ready to cash out. This is an ideal role for working on your financial management skills or demonstrating your aptitude with accounting and numbers.
Top careers in casino operations management
Average salary: $60,000 per year
Experience required: 5 years
Typical education: High school diploma or equivalent
The casino pit is the area where you’ll find dice and card table games like craps, blackjack, poker, and roulette. The pit boss oversees the players and dealers of these games and manages the day-to-day operations of these games. This can include scheduling and supervising staff, coordinating with security personnel and other managers to spot cheating or problem gamblers, and opening and closing table games. In-depth knowledge of casino gaming is the main requirement for this role, along with strong communication and observation skills. Often, pit bosses work as dealers for many years before moving up into this position.
Average salary: $81,000 per year
Experience required: 2 years
Typical education: Bachelor’s degree in accounting, math, or a related field
Revenue managers are the ones who keep the books in a casino’s management office. They’re responsible for tracking the revenue from games, on-site restaurants, and other sources of income, ensuring all of the accounting is accurate and checking for signs of fraud, cheating, or other improprieties. This is an ideal role for people with strong mathematics skills, as well as a sharp eye for details and in-depth understanding of casino profits, losses, and payout strategies.
Average salary: $82,000 per year
Experience required: 4-6 years
Typical education: Bachelor’s degree in hospitality or business management
Gaming managers are in charge of the day-to-day gaming operations on the casino floor. This includes scheduling and supervising the staff, monitoring guests and resolving their issues, and ensuring all of the games are running smoothly and in accordance with laws, regulations, and house rules. This is the highest role in the casino floor operations side of the business, overseeing a team of other supervisors and employees and responsible for interviewing, hiring, disciplining, and firing staff as needed. Strong communication skills are a must in this role, as is in-depth knowledge of the gaming industry.
Average salary: $242,000 per year
Experience required: 5+ years
Typical education: Bachelor’s degree in hospitality, business, or finance
You may also see this role called casino operations manager or property manager, all of which describe the same general role. This is the highest-level manager in a casino, coordinating all of the individual area managers, including pit bosses and operations managers on the gaming floor, as well as food and beverage or events managers for other activities in the casino. They’ll normally spend most of their time in the office as opposed to on the floor working with customers. Their day-to-day tasks can include overseeing new employee hiring and training, managing the casino’s advertising or marketing efforts, reviewing revenue and profit figures, writing and enforcing policies and regulations, and all other aspects of running a casino business.
Choosing your casino management career path
There are a variety of roles available in casino management, and the right one for you will depend on your strengths, interests, and ideal work environment. If you’re not sure which career path will suit you best, getting hands-on experience in the industry is the best way to get a sense for what roles you’re drawn for.
Bristol Associates, Inc. is an executive search firm with over 55 years of excellence in recruiting nationwide. Bristol specializes in recruiting for the Casino Gaming; CBD; Facility and Concession; Food and Beverage Manufacturing; Healthcare; Hotel and Resort; Nonprofit; Restaurant and Foodservice; and Travel, Tourism, and Attraction industries.
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