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Learning in Las Vegas? You bet.

What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas — or so the saying goes. But students in statistics Professor Robert Hannum’s Risky Business course leave Las Vegas with information casinos probably don’t want them to share.

The students get an insider view of gaming regulations, law, marketing, casino operations and the many facets of commercial gaming — including tips from a personal gaming instructor.

Hannum, who has been taking students to Las Vegas two to three times a year during interterms since 1994, insists that gambling is a suitable subject for academic study.

Consider this: According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in the gaming industry is projected to grow faster than all other occupations for at least the next seven years. In 2005 alone, U.S. gross gaming revenues totaled $83.7 billion — not including $6 billion from the Internet. And when you take into account that commercial casinos pulled in 65.6 percent of those revenues, gaming is an industry worth examining.

While Hannum provides the foundational and statistical information for the course, he relies on speakers for the rest.

“This course is designed to be more about the industry,” he says. “It’s more interdisciplinary.”

Statistics and probability are at the heart of that industry, says Hannum, who quotes Nico Zographos, a famous baccarat dealer from the 1920s-40s, when illustrating this point: “There is no such thing as luck. It is all mathematics.”

Senior statistics major C.J. Ohmer, one of 11 students to accompany Hannum to Vegas in December, says he learned almost immediately that it “doesn’t matter what you do, you’re going to lose money here eventually.”

Especially with the new games casinos keep creating, says Mary Ann Sena-Edelen, who showed students how to play casino games.

“We make it sound yummy so you do it,” says Sena-Edelen, corporate diversity leadership manager at the MGM Grand.

Kyle Markman (BSBA ’05) took Risky Business two years ago, and this year he returned as a guest speaker. Markman is Hard Rock Hotel & Casino’s marketing manager.

“This course showed me the underbelly of the action in Las Vegas,” says Markman. “You are learning in an environment where you see the statistics learned in class being used to help make a business profitable.”

Other guest speakers — including professional card players, a gaming lawyer and the Mirage’s surveillance director, who gave students the “eye in the sky” view by showing them the Mirage surveillance room — talked more about how Vegas runs as a business.

But as Ohmer points out, there is a benefit to understanding the way the games operate and how the numbers work.

“Casinos are profitable because they do win,” he says. “So when I chose to gamble, I had to remember that there is a point where you just have to walk away from the table with no regrets.”

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