Lack of funds sidelines gaming program

Published 12:02 am Saturday, November 10, 2007

NATCHEZ —When Alcorn State University’s Natchez campus first offered a master’s degree in gaming and hospitality they were the only such program in the state.

Now that same program is almost nonexistent.

Interim Master of Business Administration and director of graduate business programs Vivek Bhargava said the school is currently not offering any classes in the gaming program nor will it in the foreseeable future.

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Bhargava said when the program came to Alcorn a couple of years ago students showed an interest in its unique curriculum.

The program offered students a chance to earn a master’s degree in gaming and extensive training in casino management.

But that quickly changed.

“We want to do it (offer classes) but we can’t,” he said.

Lack of resources, Bhargava said, has brought the gaming program to a halt.

According to William Piper, Alcorn’s interim dean, the project was never properly funded.

“It takes money to run a program,” he said.

Piper said when the Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning brought the program to Alcorn they did not allocate enough funding.

“You expect to get resources,” he said.

Piper said the idea to bring the gaming program to Alcorn was originally spearheaded by the school’s late President Clinton Bristow.

And while the program was being utilized by about 20 or so students the curriculum original director Tim Wilson soon left and moved to another university.

And coincidently after Wilson left Alcorn, the few remaining professors in the program also left.

Bhargava said before long none the program had no instructors.

And with no money to hire new professors the program now sits stagnant.

Piper said to hire a full-time professor for the program would cost around $150,000 per year.

“We don’t have that,” he said.

And the school’s lack of teachers may be hurting more than just students.

Bhargava said that the casino industry is starved for well-trained, well-educated casino managers.

As of now students that want to work in casinos normally complete their MBAs and get on the job training, Bhargava said.

Bhargava also said that students once in the gaming program have since moved into other programs to complete their studies.

Piper said he is unaware of any future funding plans that would resuscitate the gaming program.