Messenger - Vol. 2, No. 3, Page 4
Summer 1993
From bugs to blackjack

     Fate. Chance. Opportunity. Luck. They've all played a role in the
major, lifetime decisions that led Michelle Michelini Hardiman, Delaware
'78, an entomology and applied ecology graduate, into a world of non-stop
gaming action in a craps pit, calculating and overseeing the payoffs and
observing the antics of casino high rollers in the wee small hours of the
     Hardiman's road to Las Vegas and Atlantic City began in her hometown
of Wilkes-Barre, Pa. When she was considering college, her father, Francis
J. Michelini, Delaware '50M, suggested his daughter accompany him on a
business trip to Newark. As president of Wilkes University, the elder
Michelini enjoyed returning to his alma mater, where he periodically
visited his friend, Art Trabant, then U. of D. president.
     "As soon as I saw the Delaware campus," says Hardiman, thinking back
two decades, "I knew I didn't want to go anywhere else."
     Although she had always been interested in science, Hardiman enrolled
as an undeclared major in arts and science. Later, she learned that the
father of an Alpha Chi Omega sorority sister was teaching a course in
entomology. Hardiman signed up to see what it was like. She soon switched
her major and decided to aim for a position in agricultural extension
     "In college, my nickname was 'Bugs,'" recalls Hardiman. "One friend
pictured me driving in a VW bug, with an insect on top, and operating my
own exterminating service."
     The Michelini family spent the summers in Ocean City, N.J., where
Michelle worked in a retail clothing outlet. After graduation, she decided
to enjoy one more carefree season at the shore before trying her luck in
the real world. At that time, in the late '70s, casino gambling had just
arrived in nearby Atlantic City.
     A fellow ag graduate, George Schilling, Delaware '79, ran into
Hardiman on the Boardwalk in Atlantic City, mentioned he was working at
Caesar's Casino and gave her an application for dealers' school. Jobs, he
said, were plentiful, since there were not enough trained table game
dealers to go around.
     Hardiman enrolled in a 12-week craps course and became one of the
original dealers who helped open Bally's Park Place Casino in 1979.
     "I was kind of worried about how my father would react to my thinking
of going to dealers' school," she says, "but, he was fine. He realized it's
not necessarily what you do with your major, per se, but how you use your
education, no matter what field you decide to go into.
     "Education, at that important time in your life in college, is a
unique experience," she says. "And the skills you gain can be transferred.
Gambling was a blooming industry in 1978-79, and I got in on the ground
     During the last 14 years, Hardiman has worked as a dealer in craps,
blackjack and red dog. She's been a box person in the craps pit-overseeing
payoffs and the general hectic action of the game, a floor person, pit
clerk and floor supervisor. Her career also has taken her to Resorts
International in Atlantic City and the Mirage in Las Vegas.
     Currently, as a casino scheduler at Trump Plaza Hotel Casino in
Atlantic City, Hardiman is responsible for placing 475 employees behind
various table games and at special events, tournaments and other casino
activities where licensed dealers are needed.
     Working on the administrative side of the house is different, Hardiman
concedes, but it's just as hectic as working on the casino floor. Natural
characteristics of a business that operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a
year, are long hours and erratic schedules.
     "When you go into the casino business, you say good-bye to weekends
and holidays off. You have to be here working when the customers are here,"
Hardiman says.
     Fortunately, there's some benefit in having a spouse in the same line
of work. Hardiman's husband, Dennis, is a casino host further up the
Boardwalk, at Trump's Taj Mahal Casino Resort. The couple has two children,
Erin, 6-1/2, and Steven, 5.
     "I'll tell you one thing,"she says, "my children won't be afraid of
insects. I just tell them: 'Relax, they won't hurt you.' When I first
started working at Bally's, I had people bringing me insects in jars that
they found in their apartments. They would ask me what they were and I'd
look them up in my textbooks."
     So, just how much money can go through a craps table? "I've seen
people play $100,000 at a time at the Mirage in Las Vegas. The biggest win
I've ever had was in Atlantic City. There was a man who won half-a-million
dollars in one night," Hardiman says.
     She says she's also worked with people who have picked up their pay
and gone to the casino next door to lose it.
     Her free, expert advice to any visitor to Atlantic City's 12 seductive
temples of chance: "Don't gamble what you can't afford to lose."
                                   -Ed Okonowicz, Delaware '69, '84M