Job prospects and hands-on learning: Spotlight on Event and Casino Management

To put on a successful event, you need to know a little bit of everything: the carpentry needed to build your expo booth, the ins-and-outs of catering and decorations, the professional demeanor that can allay the fears of a nervous bride.

And you can say the same about a casino, from the intricacies of its games, to the high-tech tech security systems that catch cheaters and the laws that govern the industry.

This fall, SUNY Broome Community College is offering two new degree programs in Hospitality: Casino Management, A.A.S., and Event Management, A.O.S.

The two come at an opportune time, when New York State is poised to approve a new casino in the Southern Tier. Two local applicants– Traditions at the Glen in the Town of Union and Tioga Downs in Nichols – are competing for the designation, along with Rochester-based Wilmorite in Tyre.

The two degrees are, in essence, connected.

“Casinos do all of these things: trade shows, expositions, conventions, even weddings,” explained Rey Wojdat, chair of the Hospitality Programs Department.

Beyond the Southern Tier, casinos support a wide range of jobs – in New York State, nationally and across the globe. Employment in gaming services jobs are expected to grow by 10 percent from 2012 to 2022, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Meeting, convention and event planners also are seeing better odds when it comes to a job; the profession was listed by the U.S. Department of Labor as one of the ten fastest-growing occupations in the country from 2010 to 2020. New York State’s Department of Labor considered the employment outlook “very favorable,” with an average annual opening of 530 jobs.

Event management opportunities are found all over the world, noted instructor Maria Montemagno, a certified wedding and event planner who teaches in the program. Students with this career can work in casinos, hotels, resorts, conference centers, banquet facilities, amusement parks, zoos, colleges or any organization that holds events.

“I find it to be an exciting field. It’s growing so much in this area,” said Bernadette Quaglia, who teaches in the casino program and is an industry professional.  “In the gaming business, there’s a lot of room for advancement.”

Hands-on learning

Both degree programs – which are new this fall — include popular, hands-on classes, such as wedding planning, bartending and casino games. There’s even a math course that uses casino games to teach arithmetic, algebra, probability and statistics.

Interior Design for Special Events teaches participants to create booths for trade shows and other structures. EVE 125, the Wedding Planning, Coordinating and Consulting course, puts on a mock wedding that has all the details of a real wedding, without the couple actually marrying legally. Students in EVE 101, the Fundamentals of Event Management, work together with the hospitality club to hold events throughout the semester to raise money for the Wes Warren Scholarship fund.

“Our goal for this program is to prepare students for a career in this field by engaging in learning inside and outside of the classroom,” Montemagno said. “We focus on building skills that are essential in business: professionalism, organization, time management and, most importantly, being detail- and deadline-orientated. “

Classrooms include the college’s very own Casino Vespa, which includes the games and amenities future casino workers will be expected to know intimately, from a 14-foot craps table, Blackjack table and roulette, to an overhead security system, a security monitoring room, a working bar and more.

Students are also expected to obtain an internship, a paying job that makes them accountable to an employer, Wojdat said. Opportunities range from catering jobs to Tioga Downs, Traditions, the Roberson Museum & Science Center, the Forum Theatre and more.

Both programs feature top-notch instructors that have years of experience in their fields. Quaglia worked for Carnival cruise line’s casino department, working her way up from the floor to management. Montemagno started All Occasions by Maria, a successful wedding and event planning business based in Binghamton.

James Baburchak of Kirkwood recently took the casino dealing class in the hope of getting a job in the industry and working his way up. He was originally looking at courses in the Niagara County area, and was pleased to find one at SUNY Broome instead.

“Bernie was awesome. She could give you a lot of firsthand accounts of what working in a casino was like,” he said.

Event Management student Brooke Bautz has already taken courses in wedding planning and the fundamentals of event management, and will be taking interior design for weddings. She said she enjoys the details and planning that come together to make an event work.

“I want to have my own business eventually, down the road, with an emphasis on weddings,” said the Binghamton resident, who currently puts her event management skills to work at catering jobs.

“Maria knows what she’s doing. She’s very good at what she does,” Bautz added.