IT’S AN iconic cinema moment. Sitting around the card table, Sean Connery is dressed to the nines, Martini close by. He lights up and utters the immortal words, “The name’s Bond, James Bond”.
For many, this is their experience of a casino. High stakes, preserve of rich people and, well, a bit of a fantasy, so the Grosvenor Casino situated off the A33 in Reading might seem as exotic as the island where Dr No was busy building a secret underground base.
But it’s a hive of friendly activity and acts as one of the company’s UK key sites, coaching staff to create memorable moments.
Through its Gaming Academy, it trains staff in a range of games over a six-week period. Part of this includes a safe gambling module to help manage those times when lady luck has definitely run out.
Grosvenor says this includes how to identify “potential markers of harm” in customers.
The course also covers some of the most popular games, including blackjack, roulette and poker. Other skills include dexterity in both hands, customer service and catching cheats – no cards up these sleeves.
Jonathan Swaine, managing director of Grosvenor Casinos, says the company prides itself on creating opportunities for team members to progress their careers.
“When we make a hire, we are committed to giving them the best chance to progress and have a career, not just a job,” he adds.
“The Gaming Academy is something we are really proud of; we have seen a really positive uptake in participation. The past 15 months have been very tough for us all and now we have our teams back doing what they do best, we are determined to give them the best career development opportunities we can.”
Laura Wilson, 33 and “Reading born and bred”, is one such graduate. She joined working in the food and beverages department, and took the opportunity to join in the Academy programme … days before the second lockdown.
“When we realised we were reopening, I completed the training,” she says. “My goodness, it was so hard.
“At the beginning, I found it frustrating because there were certain things my mind wasn’t used to doing: calculations, mathematical stuff, and basically retraining my brain to do things I’ve never done before.
“It was enjoyable at the same time. I love being here, having a focus. This is what I want to do, what I’m going to accomplish.”
She took to it like a roulette ball to a wheel. Just don’t think the maths is basic stuff, as Laura explains: “If you ask me what’s 15 times 35, it’s 525. I can tell you because I essentially trained my brain to know these types of calculations.”
Being able to manipulate cards, spin the wheel, cut chips without breaking into a sweat – it’s a skill.
Laura got there with the help of a roll of sticky tape, using it to tape fingers together to help her get, those muscle memories in place.
She feels it’s all been worth it: “The Gaming Academy also instilled a lot of confidence in me personally and the fact I was able to complete the course was a big deal for me,” she says. “I never imagined I would progress the way I have, and I’ve been given so many opportunities through the time I’ve been here.
“I love being here – we’re one big happy family.”
She adds: “I don’t think I could move because I’m so attached to the customers here: I love the staff and the customers. It’s like my second home here.”
Forget 007, Laura is in Grosvenor heaven.