WARRENSVILLE HEIGHTS, Ohio - A year from now, Ohio's first casino will be opening in downtown Cleveland. Those hoping to be dealers are among the first to be certified by state's only dealers school.
Bill Walters didn't want to wait for a casino dealers school to maybe open one day near his Columbus home, so he started looking online at his options elsewhere.
That's when he came across the Ohio School of Casino Dealers that opened its doors on Richmond Road in Warrensville Heights. He enrolled, packed a bag and began Monday his training to become a certified casino dealer.
"I am staying here Monday through Friday and going back home on the weekends to Columbus," he said. "Casinos are coming everywhere in Ohio so you better get out in front of it or it's going to be too late."
The school was the brainchild of Jill Vangen, a Cleveland native who worked for the last 30 years as a dealer in Las Vegas. From afar, she watched each time the casino question came up for a vote in Ohio.
"I kind of kept saying that as soon as they pass it I'm coming back and opening up a dealers school," she said.
In November of 2010, she and partner Sonny Moss did. They've already seen about 70 students who are schooled in black jack, poker, craps, baccarat, roulette, pai gow poker and carnival games.
Hours at the school are flexible to meet the schedules of the students and the courses can range from $800 and up, depending upon whether you'll be studying a single game or combination of games.
"We get a good variation," said Vangen. "A lot of people want to learn as much as they can because they want to make a career out of it so the majority are taking all the games."
That can take three or four months.
One of those presently enrolled is Mike Ogrodnick of Parma.
"I am taking all the games but right now I've been doing a lot of work with the craps," he said. "You need a lot of work to become a competent dealer with that."
Ogrodnick was planning to go out of state to get certified and was ecstatic to see this school open locally. His goal is to become a dealer with Horseshoe Casino Cleveland when the $350 million casino opens a year from now in the Higbee Building downtown. He thinks it will provide the region with an economic boost.
"We need something to generate some type of sustainable income for families in Cleveland. You know we don't have a blue collar base anymore, you need something that can pay decently that people can raise a family on," he said.
Mike Matye also of Parma agreed.
"That's what this town needs an industry that is going to create jobs and this will create jobs," he said.