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At the Silver City Galleria in Taunton, retail has been a losing game. First, JC Penney folded. Then Macy’s. Yet deep inside what was once an Old Navy store, Bristol Community College is betting big on the promise of another industry: casinos.

“The casinos are going to hire 10,000 people in the Commonwealth and the college said, 'Let’s start training people for those jobs,'” said Paul Robillard, an instructor at the school’s newly-opened casino lab.

Certified by the state gaming commission, the lab houses tables for poker, roulette, craps and blackjack. About a dozen students watch as Robillard demonstrates the finer points of dealing cards.

“Up, underneath,” he says as he picks cards off the green felt covered table. “Up, underneath.”

Dimly lit with a brightly colored rug on the floor, the lab feels like a tiny casino. Mirrored security cameras hang above the gaming tables, and a room next to the lab houses surveillance equipment. 

“You can teach virtually anyone,” said Robillard, who spent four years dealing cards at Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut. “It’s not a complicated game.”

Casinos are Robillard’s second career.  He’s a former Red Cross executive and longtime business professor at Bristol Community College. Like many others, he saw the advent of casinos as a game changer for Massachusetts’ southeastern corner.

“Bristol County — the average salary, the average income — is really low. So, it’s an opportunity for people to get good jobs, and the casinos have good benefits, too,” said Robillard. “The dealers will make $40-$50,000 a year, including tips, and it’s up from there.”

If all had gone as planned, casino jobs would be available right in the neighborhood. The Mashpee Wampanoag tribe had already broken ground on a casino when they lost a federal court case challenging their right to the land. Both the case and the future of a casino in this part of the state remain in limbo.

“We would have rather seen that the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe was successful and would have had their casino built by now,” said Robillard. "That certainly would have been more advantageous to the folks in southeastern Massachusetts.”

Students who learn how to get into the casino game here in Taunton may not stick around. Casinos now under construction in Everett and Springfield are more than an hour away.  

“People, if they’re really interested in it and want to start a career, it’s like any other corporation — you've got to move," said Robillard.

There are casinos operating in nearby Rhode Island, although they’re not nearly the size of the one imagined for Taunton or the casino resorts now under construction in Everett and Springfield. Still, student Mary Hanning is hopeful that a casino proposed for Tiverton, Rhode Island opens. It’s right across the bridge from her home in Fall River.

“I think it would be interesting to get in on the ground floor of something that dynamic,” said Hanning. 

The casino class is part of a larger hospitality program. Students can earn an associate’s degrees with a concentration not only in casino management, but also tourism and culinary arts. They are all skills sure to be in high demand, just not close to home.