The cards move quickly and the chips change hands frequently at the high-limit blackjack tables at Majestic Star Casino in Gary.

And Kaitlyn Scheffel, a self-assured 25-year-old, is at the center of it all.

"You have to stay focused," Scheffel said before beginning a recent shift as a blackjack dealer. "You can make a mistake at any time, and it's people's money."

Scheffel has been running blackjack, poker and dice games at the casino for more than two years, after beginning in housekeeping three years ago.

She wears a smart dealer's outfit including a bow tie and black vest worn over a white blouse.

"Most of the time it's a lot of fun," she said. Though it can become a challenge "keeping a positive attitude when people are not being positive."

But when the guests are winning, "then everybody has fun."

The training to deal blackjack takes six weeks. For poker it's eight, and for dice games 10 weeks. "With dice there are a lot of different elements," Scheffel explained.

Scheffel said the personal interaction with guests is one of the best parts of the job. 

"It can be really exciting when people are winning," she said.

The fact that guests' money is on the line can create some pressure, but that eases with experience.

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"The first time you're doing anything you're completely nervous, but once you get the hang of it, it's a lot easier," Scheffel said.

One requirement for any job on a casino floor is flexibility in scheduling. And it doesn't hurt to be bit of a night owl. That's because casinos never sleep.

They are open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Up until recently, Scheffel worked the swing shift. That involved working 7 p.m. to 3 a.m.

"I'd been working swings since I started," she said.

Recently she began working a regular noon to 8 p.m. shift Wednesday through Sunday.

Dealers must earn a gaming license, and everyone — guests and employees alike — must be at least 21 years old. And there are two other requirements that really improve the odds.

"You have to be able to talk to people and keep a smile on your face," she said.

How I got the job: A friend of mine from high school worked here and he told me they're always hiring. I started off housekeeping when I first came. I wanted something better ... housekeeping wasn't very fun. There's lots of opportunity to move up. They hold (dealer) classes all the time. I saw a class was starting and decided to go to an open interview.

What the job pays: $15 to $20 per hour (includes tips)

Job growth: U.S. casinos will need 11,400 more gaming dealers by 2022, which represents an 11.4 percent increase in the labor market, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.


Assistant Deputy Editor

Andrew covers transportation, real estate, casinos and other topics for The Times business section. A Crown Point native, he joined The Times in 2014, and has more than 15 years experience as a reporter and editor at Region newspapers.