Gaming Industry Growing In Oklahoma

Tuesday, March 31st 2009, 5:20 pm
By: News On 6

By Dan Bewley and Scott Thompson, News On 6

TULSA, OK -- Gaming is one of the fastest growing industries in the state with more than 20,000 jobs expected to be added over the next eight years.

Tulsa Community College is giving would-be job seekers the inside track.

Enrollment in TCC's gaming and hospitality program has grown 300% just over the last year.

With 30,000 employees across the state, organizers say more and more people are looking to cash in on Oklahoma's entertainment industry.

Nearly 1,800 people earn a living at the Cherokee Casino and Resort in Catoosa. Rick Miller is one of them.

"It's completely different from anything I've ever done," said Rick Miller, TCC student.

Miller moved back to Tulsa from Washington D.C. a year ago. He was looking for a career change and working in a casino, he thought, was the perfect choice.

"I like dealing with the people and the excitement that you have, the bells and whistles that are going on all the time, 24 hours a day," said Miller.

So Miller enrolled in Tulsa Community College's gaming and hospitality program.

"We're developing people that can manage people and can supervise these people," said Jim O'Mealy, with Tulsa Community College.

Program director Jim O'Mealy says there has never been a better time to think about a career in hospitality.

The state expects the industry will grow up to 39% by 2016. O'Mealy says each one of those hotels, casinos or restaurants will need qualified workers.

"They need to be a highly polished individual. They need to be a highly organized person. They need to be a person that works well under pressure," said O'Mealy.

"I had been in sales for about 20 years," said Sherry Bauer, TCC student.

Sherry Bauer is another TCC student working her way into the industry. She says the program has opened her eyes to all of the different job possibilities.

"You can get into hotel. You can get into food and beverage. You can get into gaming on the floor," said Bauer.

Cherokee Nation officials agree. They say the growth spurt of the gaming and hotel industry is unprecedented and educated employees are a must.

"We want people that have concepts and have learned types of skills in order to deal with our guests and the reason is we want those guests coming back," said Doyle Paden, Cherokee Nation Businesses.

Depending on the program, it could take two years or two semesters to graduate. TCC offers classes both on campus or entirely online that can be taken anywhere in the state.