First Person

MTYelena Zemskova has a degree in physics but prefers working in a casino.
Yelena Zemskova, shift manager, New York casino

I started working at a casino in 1993, when I was a still a student and needed a part-time job. When I was in school, I moved around a lot with my parents; then I came to Moscow to study physics. Someone told me that I knew nothing about physics, so just to prove them wrong, I studied hard and passed the exams. I finished my physics degree but never went back to science.

First, I worked as a dealer; in the '90s, that was sometimes a wild experience. Dealers just have to pay attention to their own tables; they don't know what goes on in other parts of the casino. I am now the shift manager, which means that for eight hours, I am responsible for everything that happens on the casino floor. I have to deal with guests and with employees.

Things are different now: People come to the casino for the atmosphere more than anything else. Some of them don't even play, but they enjoy sitting in the restaurant or socializing with their friends. People come here for the level of service. Atmosphere is what we primarily provide. We don't let people with gambling problems in; if a person is not here to have a good time, we tell him that he needs to get help.

I think working in a casino suits my personality. If they close them down, I will probably go work abroad, where there is a casino culture.

The hardest part of working here is that work takes time away from being with family. There are shifts that start at midnight, 8 a.m. and 4 p.m.