Nevada Dealers Get the Shaft: Employers Now Decide How Much of Tips Dealers Get to Keep

By: Koren Leonards

Casino dealers, like many others who work in the service industry, rely heavily on tips to supplement what they are paid by employers, an amount which is usually at or below minimum wage.[1]  It used to be an industry standard that each dealer would keep his own tips, or tokes (as they are known in the casino business), by carrying his toke box with him to any table he dealt on.[2]  At the end of the night, he would count his tokes and leave with what he had earned.[3]  There was also a variation for craps dealers, who work on “crews” because each table requires the presence of 5 casino employees: 4 dealers who rotate among 3 positions and a break period, and a box person, who is responsible for supervising the game.[4]

As often happens, the industry standard changed over time.  These days the most common way that dealers divide tips is by pooling all tokes made over a 24 hour or two week period, then dividing them by the hours worked by all dealers during that period.[5]  An hourly toke rate is the result, and dealers are paid their casino wages plus the hourly toke rate.[6]  This process is usually managed by a toke committee, a group of dealers elected by all the dealers to gather and tally the tips, then determine the toke rate.[7]  The dealers vote on other matters as well, for example, whether they should give a percentage of their tips to another group of workers, such as cashiers.[8]

One man is almost single-handedly responsible for what may become the new industry standard: Casino management exercising complete control over dealer tokes.[9]  In 2006, Steve Wynn instituted a rule in his Las Vegas casinos requiring a percentage of dealer tokes be given to employees who were formerly classified as supervisors.[10]  The rule disbanded the toke committees and put control of dealer tokes into the hands of the management, creating concern about transparency, fraud, and possible theft.[11]  The dealers no longer know the total amounts of their tips, and there are no oversight procedures in place to police management’s procedures.[12]

In the wake of Wynn’s rule, a complex legal battle ensued, travelling all the way to Nevada’s Supreme Court.[13]  The Court focused on whether Wynn’s rule violated a Nevada Statute which makes it “unlawful for any person to take all or any part of any tips or gratuities bestowed upon the employees.”[14]  The rule’s opponents relied upon precedents which interpreted the statute to mean an employer could not take any part of an employee’s tips “for the benefit of the employer.”[15]  They argued that Casino management was distributing dealer tips to supervisors in an attempt to raise the salaries of those employees without the company having to pay them more.[16]

The Nevada Supreme Court did not agree with this interpretation.  Because the tips go to other employees, and not the casino itself, the Court found that Wynn’s rule did not violate the statute.[17]  The good news for casino dealers is that this Wynn’s rule is not yet an industry norm.  In fact, it may only be implemented in Wynn’s casinos or may remain confined to Nevada, as  this case only involved the interpretation of a state statute.[18]  However, it would be wise for casino personnel, employees and management alike, to track this initiative closely and be ready to face it head on, if and when it arrives on their doorstep.


[1]See Dealer’s Tips Controversy, Vegas Aces, http://www.vegas-aces.com/Root/tips/tipcontroversy.html (last visited Feb. 1, 2014); Why Tip the Craps Dealers?, NextShooter.com, http://www.nextshooter.com/whytip (last visited Feb. 1, 2014).

[2]Id.

[3] Id.

[4]Belle of Sioux City, L.P. and Workers Have Rights Too (Fair Deal Unit), 333 N.L.R.B. 98, 117; Craps Boxman – The Man in Charge of Craps, Casinos Online, http://www.casinosonline.co.uk/game-guides/craps/craps-boxman.htm

[5] See Liz Benston, Official: Casinos Can Split Dealer’s Tips with Supervisors, Las Vegas Sun (July 12, 2010), http://www.lawvegassun.com/news/2010/jul/12/court-casinos-can-split-dealers-tips-supervisors/.

[6]Dealer’s Tips Controversy, supra note 1.

[7]See id.

[8] See Rebecca Ahmed, Legal Regulations of Tip Pooling and Tip Sharing in the United States Hospitality Industry 27 (Apr. 1, 2009) (unpublished thesis/dissertation, University of Nevada, Las Vegas) (on file with UNLV Libraries), available at http://digitalscholarship.unlv.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1594&context=thesesdissertaions.

[9] See Steve Green, Casino Dealer’s Union Joins Fight Over Wynn Tip-Sharing Policy, Vegas Inc., (Sept. 3, 2012), http://www.vegasinc.com/business/2012/sep/03/casino-dealers-union-joins-fight-overwynn-tip-sha/ (claiming Wynn’s policy may soon spread to other Nevada casinos).

[10] Sean Whaley, Nevada Supreme Court Says Tip Sharing Permitted, Las Vegas Review Journal (Oct. 31, 2013), http://www.reviewjournal.com/news/nevada-supreme-court-says-tip-sharing-permitted. Wynn had recently restructured the management of his Casinos.  Table game supervisors and managers are now referred to as “Casino Service Team Leads,” and are entitled to a share of dealer tokes under the new rule.

[11] Dealer’s Tips Controversy, supra note 1.

[12] See id.

[13] See Benston, supra note 6 (giving an overview of the procedural history of the case).

[14]Nev. Rev. Stat. § 608.160 (2011)

[15] Wynn Las Vegas, LLC v. Baldonado, 311 P.3d 1179, 1181 (Nev. 2013) (“The Dealers and the district court appear to believe that, in Alford, this court created a “direct-benefit” test which invalidates any tip-pooling policy that directly benefits the employer. We take this opportunity to clear up any confusion surrounding this issue. Alford did not create a “direct-benefit” test, nor do we believe that Moen created such a test, either.”)

[16] Green, supra note 11 (“Attorneys for the dealers…say the policy diverts $5 million a year from dealers to Wynn. That’s the amount of money Wynn doesn’t have to pay for raises for supervisors, they say.”)

[17] Wynn Las Vegas, LLC, 311 P.3d at 1182.

[18] See id.

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