Philadelphia’s Drexel University launched the first formal four-year gaming career training program at an Eastern university with the ribbon-cutting October 6 of the Dennis Gomes Memorial Casino Training Lab.
The facility—named for the late gaming legend who fought the mob in Las Vegas and was an innovative chief of Atlantic City’s Trump Taj Mahal, Tropicana and Resorts casinos—is still a work in progress for Drexel. Housed within the university’s Center for Hospitality and Sport Management, the campus facility is still filling out its replica casino, the newest instructional tools being several slots recently donated by Bally Technologies and gaming tables courtesy of the Tropicana.
Heading development of the lab has been Bob Ambrose, a longtime casino executive brought in as a gaming and hospitality instructor for the casino training program. Ambrose had been executive director of slot service operations at Tropicana in Atlantic City and gaming and hospitality development executive at Gomes & Cordish Gaming, LLC when tapped for the new post by Dr. Jonathan Deutsch, director of the Drexel University Center for Hospitality and Sport Management.
At the ribbon-cutting, Deutsch credited Ambrose with developing a program designed to “mold the next generation of responsible industry leaders.” Deutsch said too many traditional gaming programs are comprised of little more than “textbooks and war stories.” Drexel’s program, he said, will let students “learn by doing.”
Ambrose secured approval for the gaming training lab a year ago from the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board and, said Deutsch, “took this idea and ran with it.” At the ribbon-cutting, Ambrose said the Gaming Lab is meant as a hands-on training center “as Dennis would have wanted it,” referring to the late Gomes, known as a hands-on executive with a strong commitment to education and mentoring.
Gomes’ family, including wife Barbara Gomes, son Aaron, daughters Danielle and Gabrielle and Danielle’s son Jake, along with other family members, cut the ribbon on the gaming lab.
Aaron Gomes, who worked for his father at Resorts and most recently returned to the U.S. after two years as managing director of Echo’s Jupiters Gold Coast in Australia, is a Drexel alumnus, having earned his MBA there. He said he was proud to have the university be home to a lab dedicated to his father.
The elder Gomes had four “passions,” Aaron Gomes said—the gaming industry, education, caring about others and, most importantly, integrity. “I want the lab to represent not only gaming, but integrity,” he said. “That makes Drexel the perfect place.”