IAG visited the recently established Japan Casino Academy in Osaka to find out about dealer training for the nation’s burgeoning casino industry.
Japan’s IR Implementation Act was passed last July and everyone in the industry – as well as those who want to be part of it – are champing at the bit to be involved. The plan is for integrated resorts, including casinos, to be up and running by 2025. It sounds a long way off but in terms of opening multi-billion dollar resorts it’s not much time at all.
One of the key new professions IRs will bring to Japan is that of the “casino dealer”, for which local talent must be trained. IAG visited the Japan Casino Academy’s Osaka campus to learn more.
Osaka has wasted no time in jumping on the IR bandwagon. Like mushrooms after a rain, a host of businesses have been announcing their IR-related projects throughout Osaka city, including everything from restaurants and amusement gaming venues to one of the most prominent, the IR Cafe.
But Osaka’s Japan Casino Academy surely ranks among the most important new operations to open its doors.
Launched in May 2017, it was the first real dealer training facility to be opened in Western Japan. The campus is located on Yotsubashi Street in Osaka, a short walk from Yotsubashi Station. It’s a popular area for young people and tourists.
Japan Casino Academy was originally established in May 2014, in the Yotsuya area of Tokyo. Its base has now moved to Shibuya with campuses set up in Nagoya, Fukuoka and Sapporo. New locations are planned in the Ikebukuro area of Tokyo, Yokohama, Kyoto and Kobe within the year.
“When we first opened, things were pretty quiet, but once the legislation passed last July, things got busy quick,” explains 34-year-old school director, Takafumi Maekawa. “There are many local events in Osaka and we hope to assist in making casinos and table games more popular.”
The Osaka campus features three card tables and one roulette table. There is also a card table and roulette table in a separate VIP room. On the day IAG visited, a “Casino Game Tournament” was being held with about 15 guests playing blackjack, baccarat, poker and roulette – all just for fun and educational purposes, of course. As an aside, IAG also joined in the fun. We tried throwing a roulette ball and found it to be quite difficult. Dealing cards was next to impossible.
Not so for one of the dealers present at the time, a recent graduate of the school, who was handling the cards smoothly. He now works as an instructor at the school while moonlighting as a dealer at hotel events and parties.
“My dream is to work at a casino overseas, then eventually come back to be a dealer in Japan,” he explained.
The school already has well-established pipelines to IR operators in Macau, South Korea, the Philippines and Singapore, where a number of graduates have been recruited to work at the iconic Marina Bay Sands. Director Maekawa says, “We aim to continue to strengthen our post-graduation support.”
There are four courses students can choose from at the Osaka school. The most popular “Premium Course” consists of 58 classes, each 2.5 hours in duration. The quickest graduate so far completed their course in just three months, but on average it takes most students six months to complete.
Tuition fees for this course are JPY1.3 million (US$12,000), but this includes a post-graduation overseas “field trip” with a peek into the backyard of IR operators. Past classes have traveled to Macau, last year’s trip in February was to the Australian Gold Coast and this year’s trip is planned for Las Vegas in April. The management class also includes lessons in gambling addiction where students learn about various measures taken in other countries.
As of now about 80 students have enrolled in Japan Casino Academy, Osaka campus, with 10 graduates.
“Most of our students are men with normal, salaried jobs, but there are many working women and housewives enrolled in the school as a whole. There is also one high school student and one junior high school student in 7th grade,” states Maekawa.
The demand for dealers in Japan is expected to ultimately be in the thousands or even tens of thousands. The long-standing Japan Casino School, established in 2004, also opened an Osaka campus in April of last year. Applications are expected to continue increasing as time goes on.