Confirmation that the MGM Resorts International and ORIX consortium will be the IR operator for Osaka has reactivated dealer training schools in the area, each with its own strengths and strategy.
With Japan’s first IRs inching gradually closer to becoming reality, another new casino dealer training school is opening in Osaka. IGS Osaka (International Gaming School) plans to open in July of this year with the aim of training casino dealers at a world-class level. Preparations including school information sessions and trial classes have already started taking place.
The special attribute of this school, in the words of IGS Osaka school principal and gaming instructor Tomoyuki Kitagaki, is global organizational experience – led by one of the school’s investors, veteran casino industry consultant Steve Karoul.
“[Karoul] has worked in casino operations in over 100 countries and was part of the management team that opened Marina Bay Sands in Singapore,” says Kitagaki. “He has promised to support our plan to create a school to train the personnel required for IR operators in Japan. He’s the backbone of our school and we couldn’t do it without him.”
Also involved is IGS CEO Roy Wheatley, himself bringing 40-years of industry experience. Starting his career as a casino dealer in Australia, he later opened a casino school in Singapore following the launch of Marina Bay Sands in 2010.
“He has helped us create a pipeline to Marina Bay Sands and Genting Cruise Lines,” Kitagaki says.
CLEAR OUTLET STRATEGY
Kitagaki himself graduated from Japan’s first casino training school, Japan Casino School, in 2005, before attending another, PCI Dealer School, in Las Vegas. After a stint with Seven Luck Casino in Seoul, South Korea, he moved to Marina Bay Sands in 2014 to improve his skills.
According to Kitagaki, IGS was meant to open in Osaka in April 2020 but the opening date was pushed back as COVID-19 began to spread around the world.
Ahead of the new July 2021 opening date, IGS is pushing its international standards program and the opportunity for students to learn the latest in global dealing skills. With partnerships with other casino schools in Las Vegas and Italy, there is also the opportunity to participate in short-term “study abroad” programs after graduating from the Japan school. This is the company’s “outlet strategy” and is one of its major focus points.
Aside from its links to Marina Bay Sands and Genting Cruise Lines, the school also has a relationship with Estonia thanks to former Grand Sumo Ozeki (sumo wrestler of the second highest rank) Baruto Kaito (Kaido Höövelson), who currently serves as a diet member in the northern European nation. In April, 10 students taught by Kitagaki traveled to Estonia where he says they are already working as dealers.
In preparation for an IR opening, the Osaka Wedding & Hotel/IR Vocational School (Jikei School of Hospitality), run by the Jikei Group, opened in April 2020 as the first IR course at a vocational school. Along with learning general casino operations and gaming methods, students are trained in a range of skills required to work in the global hospitality and entertainment fields.
Besides Osaka, the Jikei Group is establishing IR courses in Tokyo and Fukuoka, which include study abroad programs at the College of Southern Nevada.
Likewise, IR Gaming Institute Japan, located in Chuo Ward, Osaka, opened amidst the COVID-19 pandemic last May and is slowly but surely spreading its roots.
Director of education Rocky Katagiri has 15 years of experience as a dealer in Las Vegas and currently teaches students from Tokyo, Nagoya, Okayama and Okinawa.
“Although the past year has been rough due to the pandemic, the students have remained motivated and that gives us encouragement,” he explains. “The graduates are good enough to deal in Las Vegas. We are training them not only to be dealers, but to possess a casino manager level of awareness.”
A parallel focus to the school for Rocky right now is casino events. His first event was held in March at Yolo Base, Osaka, and focused on young women, attracting 100 participants.
The venue allowed attendees to play roulette, baccarat, blackjack and poker in a simulated casino environment with instructors and students of IR Gaming Institute Japan serving as dealers and staff.
“The response was better than I expected,” Rocky says. “I hope to hold more events where participants can enjoy a casino experience, expanding the player market. Holding events helps the dealers improve and also deepens their understanding of casinos.”
Soon, in addition to the brand new IGS, there will be seven dealer training schools in Osaka, including the original Japan Casino School, Japan Casino Academy and IRGI Japan.
“Surely MGM’s business plan will be clear by July and when that happens there will be a ton of buzz,” Kitagaki says, “Hopefully dealer schools will invigorate IR in Osaka.”