June 28, 2022
Mike Pauley started learning poker from his grandfather around the age of 8 and traveled across the country playing competitively in his early twenties. When he learned that the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Bristol was recruiting casino croupiers, he applied online.
“I had thought about a career somewhere, but I didn’t want to go far from here,” he says. But then the residents of Bristol, Virginia voted in November 2020 to allow a casino to open in the city. “And I thought, ‘This is the opportunity I’ve been waiting for. “”
Pauley, who lives in Kingsport, Tennessee, is among the first class of 39 from Hard Rock Dealer Training School preparing for the July 8 casino opening in a temporary 30,000 square foot space in the former Bristol Mall Belk store. It is expected to create 600 jobs, while the permanent 90,000 square foot complex due to open in July 2024 is expected to generate around 1,200 to 1,500 jobs. By mid-May, Hard Rock had hired about 400 people for the temporary casino.
Students in the first casino poker dealers The class started learning craps on April 25 and will learn simpler games like blackjack and baccarat during their 12-week trainings. A second group of around 80 trainee dealers began learning roulette in an eight-week course on May 19 and were expected to learn table games by mid-June to the end of June. The school has 53 students from Tennessee, 31 from Virginia, and two from North Carolina.
Hard Rock Bristol dealer pay starts at $5.25 per hour. Depending on the market, dealers can earn anywhere from $20 to $50 an hour in tips, says Mike Spatz, the casino’s vice president of gaming operations. Hard Rock also offers medical benefits and 401(k) plans to dealers.
Shift manager and trainer Steve Vacca has moved from the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood in Florida to Bristol, Virginia.
“When you’re working on a larger property,” Vacca says, “sometimes there’s not a lot of room for advancement because everything is pretty much cut out.”
The temporary casino will have 21 table games, but the permanent one is expected to have around 55 tables, “so obviously a lot of people will be moving up.”
Said Pauley: “We were thrilled that [Hard Rock] came to Virginia and gives us this opportunity to have a good job with something we love, and I couldn’t really turn it down.