The Wynn Tips Controversy

Remember to tip your dealer!


      Historically, casino dealers have lived off their tips, or "tokes", as in "tokens of gratitude." Years ago, the dealers carried around their own toke boxes with their tips from that night. Each dealer kept their own tips. That benefited dealers working peak hours and fostered competition for tips. It also put pressure on players to tip dealers, who cultivated gamblers in much the same way bartenders do with their customers.

      "At a casino where it was 'pit-for-pit,' the dealers definitely muscled players to tip, and, if they didn't, they were made to feel unwelcome at the table and in the casino," says Jim Kilby, professor of gaming at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and a former dealer.

In the late 1980s, Mr. Wynn -- then the head of Mirage Resorts Inc. -- pioneered a big change that soon became the Vegas norm. He tweaked the system to combine the tips from the blackjack, roulette, craps and baccarat dealers into one pot. The new arrangement was "by far the most equitable thing to do," says Mr. Kilby.

As a result, the modern toke is no longer cash in the envelope at the end of a shift, but taxable income that appears on a paycheck every two weeks. At most casinos, the dealers collect the money themselves under the auspices of a "toke committee". At Wynn Las Vegas, the committee members collected the day's tips from the casino floor at 4 a.m., then counted the money and presented the results to the casino cashier for verification, according to Mr. Pascal and the "Wynn Las Vegas Table Game Operations Dealer Department Handbook." The money was then paid as part of each dealer's paycheck, supplementing their nominal $6.15 per hour wages. (

As soon as the tips are dropped in that toke box, they no longer belong to the casino. Dealer's know this and a couple of them have taken the risk and stolen large amounts of money. When they are caught the casinos can't press charges because it's no longer their money and it's very difficult to get 300 dealer's to agree to press charges. (Sun)