Dealers with experience at Connecticut casinos show MGM prospects how it's done

At the Massachusetts Casino Career Training Institute in Springfield, at least four of the Gaming School’s instructors have strong ties to southeastern Connecticut. Veterans of the gaming industry, they have worked as table-games dealers at Mohegan Sun or, in one case, at both Foxwoods Resort Casino and Mohegan Sun.

Since the last week of February, Angel Rivera, Debra Cusson, and Dawn and Kevin Dreyer have been helping ready candidates for dealer positions at MGM Springfield, the nearly $1 billion resort casino scheduled to debut in September.

Once the Springfield casino opens, they’ll assume supervisory roles as “pit managers.” On Thursday, they participated in a conference call with The Day.

Cusson, 60, originally from Waterford, worked at Foxwoods from 1993 to 1996, when she moved over to Mohegan Sun to help it prepare for its opening. She worked there for 16 years before being laid off in a major downsizing in 2012. Currently renting a place in Enfield, she still owns the Uncasville house she bought years ago. She has family in southeastern Connecticut, "loves the area," and plans to eventually move back into her house.

When Mohegan Sun let her go, Cusson found work at the then-new Maryland Live! Casino in Hanover, Md., where she stayed for five years. When she heard MGM was coming to Springfield, she jumped at the chance to return to southern New England.

Now, she’s looking forward to another casino opening.

“I love that first day, when they cut the ribbon and the doors open,” she said.

Dawn Dreyer, 54, a native of Scotland who started working as a dealer 35 years ago in the United Kingdom, also arrived at Mohegan Sun in 1996 after working in the Bahamas and at casinos in a half-dozen states, including Illinois, Louisiana and Mississippi. When her husband, Kevin, 56, was laid off from Mohegan Sun in the 2012 downsizing, they, too, moved on to Maryland Live!

The Dreyers, renting for the time being in Manchester, kept the Norwich house where they raised their two sons and expect to eventually commute to Springfield from there.

“We’re really happy to be back. We love Connecticut and Massachusetts. We’ve got family and friends here,” Dawn Dreyer said.

Rivera, 45, a Springfield native, worked at Atlantic City casinos — “Tropicana, Resorts, Caesars, Showboat …,” he said — from 1990 to 2005. He returned home to work at Mohegan Sun for 11 years, leaving to “take a break” in 2016.

He recalled that three to four days a week he commuted about 70 minutes each way between Springfield and Mohegan Sun. At the time, he also had another job working for the City of Springfield. MGM hired him last November.

“After 27 years in the business, I know how to do it,” he said of his dealing prowess. “We just finished our first class of blackjack students.”

MGM Springfield is well on its way to hiring a total of about 3,000 people, including 450 table-games dealers and more than 150 poker dealers and gaming pit bosses. More than 150 people have signed up for the classes offered by the Gaming School, jointly operated by Holyoke Community College and Springfield Technical Community College.

The school’s first class of blackjack dealers “graduated” April 6, and has advanced to courses in mini-baccarat and other card games, according to Saverio Mancini, the casino’s director of communications. Instruction in craps and roulette lies ahead.

Anyone who successfully completes two courses gets an automatic job interview with MGM Springfield.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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