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Gambling on an education

Shepherd University to offer gaming course in spring

Shepherd University to offer gaming course in spring

December 08, 2004|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.VA. - With the likelihood that gambling is going to be a big part of the state and local economy for some time, Shepherd University officials have decided to offer studies in gaming.

In the spring semester, Shepherd will offer an introductory course in gaming, and school officials may take the subject further by making gaming an area of study at the school, Shepherd University Athletic Director Karl Wolf said Tuesday.

If gaming is made an area of study under the school's Department of Health, Physical Education and Recreation, students could learn all facets of the gambling industry, including hospitality, marketing, business and legal issues, Wolf said.

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Officials in the department have considered offering studies in gaming because the state has become dependent on lottery games and slot machines to support programs for senior citizens, health care and education, Wolf said.

The four racetracks in the state, including Charles Town Races & Slots in Jefferson County, grossed $854 million on slot machines last fiscal year, according to the Associated Press. Racing fans have flocked to the track for its slot machines and thoroughbred horse racing since Penn National Gaming took over in 1997 and began a transformation of the facility.

Penn National Gaming has completed nearly $200 million in renovations and expansions at the track since it took over the oval.

Shepherd officials felt they could serve a role in preparing people who want to enter the gambling field.

"There have to be persons that are trained to work in casinos," Wolf said.

The Shepherd course will cover topics such as history of gaming, its role today as a multimillion-dollar industry, horse racing, lotteries, slot machine operations and food, beverage and lodging services, a news release said.

Social concerns and the need for counseling services for problem gambling also will be discussed in the class.

If Shepherd decides to make gaming an area of study at the school, it would be the only school to offer such a program in the area, Wolf said. The closest school that offers studies in gaming is in upstate New York, Wolf said.

Wolf said the top school for gaming study is the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, which has conducted most of the research into gaming and produced many textbooks on the issue.

Making gaming an area of study at Shepherd would involve writing a proposal for consideration, Wolf said. It would need a number of approvals, including approval from the School of Education and Professional Studies and backing from Mark Stern, vice president of academic affairs, Wolf said.

If gaming is made an area of study at Shepherd, students could obtain a major in recreation and leisure studies with an emphasis on gaming, Wolf said.

Shepherd officials have consulted with officials at Charles Town Races & Slots about their plans, and hope track officials will be able to come to the Shepherd classes to lecture, Wolf said.

"We thought it would be a great idea. We wanted to help them in any way we could," said Jim Buchanan, senior vice president of government and public affairs for Penn National Gaming Inc.

Charles Town Races & Slots has experienced a problem with turnover in employees who are in entry-level jobs in areas such as food and beverage and housekeeping, Buchanan said.

Track officials try to provide training to those people who want to move up to higher jobs at the track, Buchanan said. As part of that process, having a local school where those employees could go to further their studies in areas such as business, labor law and lottery operations would be helpful, Buchanan said.

The introduction to gaming class, which will be led by Wolf, will be on Tuesday nights from 6 to 8:40 p.m. Anyone who wants to register for the class but is not a Shepherd student may contact the office of admissions at 304-876-5212 or 800-344-5231, ext. 5212. The spring semester begins Jan. 11.

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