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Arnold M. Knightly

Gambling 101: Macau students get Vegas lesson

29 June 2007

Cathy Liu grew up in mainland China the daughter of doctors, but when it came time choose her career path she decided to forgo the medical field and pursue a gaming career in the southern city of Macau.

"I found the industry quite interesting," the 21-year-old Liu said. "I saw the rapid growth and wanted to be part of it."

Liu enrolled at the University of Macau in 2004 to pursue a degree in gaming management. But for the past two weeks, Liu and 35 classmates have been in Las Vegas attending workshops at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas' International Gaming Institute and touring local gaming properties. The students were given tours of The Venetian, Wynn Las Vegas, MGM Grand and Mandalay Bay.

Davis Fong, a business administration professor at the University of Macau, said the trip shows the students the Las Vegas concept of entertainment beyond casino operations.

Seventy percent of the students come from Macau, while the rest are from mainland China.

Gabriel Donleavy, dean of the business administration school at the University of Macau, said students in the program view the growing casino industry as a long-term career opportunity.

"China's a huge part of our future," said Peter Early, Wynn Las Vegas senior vice president of human resources. "We try to work with the kids so we can find a bunch of really elite people."

Early was one of several property managers the students met during a 3 1/2-hour tour Thursday.

This is the third summer a group of Macau students have made the pilgrimage to Sin City.

The students only have to pay for their airfare, with the rest of their bill being paid through donations from nongaming businesses in Macau.

Bo Bernhard, UNLV sociology professor and director of the International Gaming Institute, said the students receive 25 hours of study with university professors during their two-week stay.

Workshops cover various areas of modern gaming and related industries: hotel operations, slot operations, food and beverage, tourism and convention management.

"In three hours they get the greatest hits version of their work," Bernhard said. "In the afternoon they get to see it applied in a real-world environment."

Bernhard said UNLV is fortunate to have some of its management graduates who now work at local properties to help set up tours and spend time with the students.

"In many cases it will be a UNLV alum who appreciates the value of the educational process because they themselves benefited," Bernhard said.

Each year, the institute hosts 24 international groups from growing gaming markets in South Africa, Australia, Asia, Europe and South America.

Michele Ho, a 21-year-old student interested in marketing and casino operations, said one of the big differences she noticed between the two cities how gamblers behave.

"They are totally relaxed and socializing here," Ho said. "In Macau, it's their job."

Ho said she enrolled in gaming management because of the career opportunities available in Macau.

"The industry will grow very fast," Ho said. "Professionals aren't available in the gaming industry for this sudden development."

Fong said that 90 percent of the gaming management majors find work in Macau upon graduation.

The relaxing of travel restrictions in 2000 by the Chinese government followed by 2001 legislation breaking up a casino monopoly held by Stanley Ho opened the market to become a gambling destination.The visiting students will begin internships with the various Macau gaming properties this fall.

Liu with be an intern with Wynn Macau, while Ho will study with the Venetian Macau.