First Graduating Class Of Stockton’s Casino Advancement Program Just The Start For LIGHT

Written By Dan Holmes on March 14, 2024
Sign for Stockton University, which graduated its first students from the Casino Advancement Program to set them up for careers at Atlantic City casinos

The first class of the Lloyd D. Levenson Institute of Gaming, Hospitality and Tourism (LIGHT) has graduated from Stockton University School of Business.

In total, 23 graduates hoping to build or enhance their careers in casino management have successfully matriculated from the program, which is the first of its type at a public university in New Jersey. Some of the graduates may someday make a name for themselves at Atlantic City casinos.

Graduates who completed the course now have an Integrated Casino Resorts Operations Certificate, thanks to successfully navigating an eight-week course. LIGHT instructors, many of them professionals with decades of experience in casino gaming, guide students through a syllabus that educates students on the major issues facing casinos and the gaming industry.

Vision of Stockton program comes to fruition to feed gambling industry

Many of the students in the first graduating class from Stockton University’s special program are already employed in the Atlantic City casino industry. The degree from LIGHT may give them the skills to advance their careers, adding to their chances at moving into a management or leadership role with a casino or gaming company.

As PlayNJ reported last November, the LIGHT program is substantive.

“Participants will be empowered to take the next step in their careers, whether advancing within their organization or pivoting to casino resort operations from a related field,” LIGHT faculty director Jane Bokunewicz said in a statement at the time.

Levenson founded LIGHT in 2010 with the hopes of creating a program such as this, Bokunewicz said in the school’s announcement.

“He’s worked as an attorney in the casino industry since its inception, and he thought the certificate fills a void providing something that’s really needed in the industry.”

She added:

“We wanted to give a networking opportunity for the students to meet people from different organizations. We want them to get the latest information from people who do the job every single day and talk about the challenges the industry is facing.”

LIGHT looking to help replenish NJ casino workforce

The eight-week course (each session is three hours of training) costs $899. There are 12 instructors employed to guide the program for the School of Business at Stockton University. Each week focuses on specific areas of the casino business, from accounting and human resources to table games and slots operations to security, regulation, hotel operations and hospitality.

The institution was partly motivated by a worker shortage in the gaming industry. Following the COVID-19 pandemic, some casino workers decided not to return to work. According to data from the state of New Jersey, as of September 2023, the nine casinos in Atlantic City employed 23,241 people, a considerable falloff from the more than 30,000 employed in 2019.

Careers in gaming are a hot topic. Since 2018, when the US Supreme Court repealed PASPA, more than 30 states have legalized online gambling. New Jersey was best positioned to respond to the ruling: anticipating the possibility and jumping to launch its online sports betting market that same year, five years after first launching online casinos in NJ.

With such a burgeoning industry, LIGHT serves as something of a feeder program, according to Robert Ambrose, a casino industry professional who also was an instructor.

“This serves as validation for their dedication, fostering confidence as they progress within the organization and undertake greater responsibilities,” he said. “This certificate program serves as a prime illustration of what can be achieved when these two sectors work together effectively.”

On top of that, with such a thriving gambling sector nearby and this program at Stockton, Ambrose envisions a bright future for all.

“The synergy between the hospitality industry and academic institutions is indispensable. It’s a symbiotic relationship that has sometimes been underestimated. The potential for collaboration is vast.”

Photo by Wayne Parry / AP Photo
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Dan Holmes

Dan Holmes is a contributing writer for PlayNJ. He has written three boooks about sports and previously worked for the National Baseball Hall of Fame as well as Major League Baseball. An avid writer, runner and enjoyer of lemon bars, Dan lives near Lake Michigan with his daughters and, oftentimes, a nearby orange cream soda.

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