WHEN she first donned her dealer uniform, Ms Bonnie Leung was a bundle of nerves. It was her maiden attempt working in a casino — and despite the training she received prior to the opening of the Sands Macao — she experienced first-day jitters.

Recalls Ms Leung, 32, with a laugh: “I was very fresh and very nervous. As it was my first casino job, I was very worried about making mistakes at the gaming table.

“Fortunately, I had very nice customers who told me not to worry too much and that the most important thing was for everyone to enjoy themselves.”

That is a message that has turned into a mantra-of-sorts for her. Now a dealer inspector who supervises other rookie dealers, Ms Leung credits the job — and the people she meets — for challenging her to do her best.

“In the beginning, I thought being a dealer meant you had to only deal cards. But it’s so much more interesting and challenging than that,” she says.

Not only does she need to be equipped with the technical knowledge of specific table games, she must also hone her interpersonal skills to deliver superior customer service.

Stepping into another world

Ms Leung’s early years were a world away from Macau’s gaming industry. Born in Guangdong, China, she grew up among the herbs and potions in her parents’ Chinese medical hall.

It was here that she worked for years after finishing Form 4, the equivalent of a secondary school education in Singapore.

But a chance to enter the gaming industry came when Sands Macao began recruiting for dealers in 2006.

Armed with a curiosity to experience a bigger world, she ventured into Macau.

She says: “Initially, I was drawn by the attractive salary offered by Sands. But working in a gaming environment has challenged me to learn more and made me more far-sighted. I know I cannot stay stagnant. I need to keep improving.”

So the determined dealer has picked up a Business Administration diploma and is learning English now.

In the casino, regular training for new table games and softer skills like supervisory techniques keep her mind sharp.

“We learn everything from the correct way to deal cards and how to conduct yourself at the table, to customer service skills,” says Ms Leung, who transferred to sister company, The Venetian Macao, in 2007.

Training for new dealers at Sands takes two to three months.

In Singapore, sister company Marina Bay Sands — which will open in early 2010 — is also recruiting dealers, with intensive training slated for the fourth quarter of 2009.

Naturally exuberant and sociable, Ms Leung says her personality traits are suited for the customer-facing nature of the casino.

All in a day’s work

“It’s a frontline service job, so you must enjoy meeting people. I am a people-person, so that helps to break the ice with customers,” she says.

She splits her working days between her dual positions as a dealer and dealer inspector. In the latter role, she takes care of a cluster of three to four tables and provides guidance to rookie dealers.

On days when she works as a dealer, mandatory mini-breaks — lasting 20 minutes each — throughout the day keep her mentally alert.

Pit supervisors and casino managers have heavier responsibilities. They work with other teams, such as surveillance, to ensure the smooth running of the casino floor.

For those who are keen to enter the gaming industry, Ms Leung has this advice: “You need to have the right attitude and initiative, be optimistic, be driven and have the motivation to learn new things. Then you’ll go far.”