Dealers and - more importantly - table game supervisors must loosen up and learn to have a little fun on the game floor.     

Why are so many table games operations so unlike a fun environment? It seems closer to a police state than a casino.

I was on my way back from the National Indian Gaming Association show the other day. A good friend on the airplane trip home told me a story about a mutual friend that was so indicative of table games operations today. A friend of mine (we will call him Bob) is a player who bets pretty big ($25 chips minimally) and is a real gregarious guy. Loud, fun, outgoing are all words to describe Bob, especially when he is playing and drinking. Not a mean or belligerent guy, but Bob has been known to use a lot of four letter words, never out of being mean or angry, but everyone around him know when he is winning or losing.

Bob was in a major casino in Las Vegas recently and playing 21. Bob was losing, not much, but pretty consistently. A couple of times during the course of getting 13s and 14s, Bob used a few choice swear words, not at anyone, but just in frustration. A new dealer arrived on the scene who, for maybe religious reasons, decided that she would have none of this. She immediately called the floor supervisor. The floor supervisor immediately put Bob’s back up by telling him that “we don’t allow swearing in the casino.” Bob looked at him, picked up his chips, closed his credit line and vowed never to play at this (or any casino) again.

We don’t allow swearing in the casino? Are you kidding me? What have we become? A church? A factory? A police state? … maybe all of the above? This story emphasizes the point that to work and play in table games pits in today’s gaming world is not fun anymore. Too many rules, too many attitudes, too much emphasis based on rating the customer, not enough emphasis on having fun with the customer. The staff having fun? Not in today’s table game world.

Let's put the fun back in

Isn’t it time we started delivering what we advertise when we talk about table games? Look at all the print advertisement we put out concerning table games at our casinos. All are similar ad try to sell the same concept:

-“Come play our tables where it’s exciting.”

- “It’s a party every day when you play our games.”

- “Our table games are fun.”

All great advertisements. They give the expectation of fun. The problem is, in most casinos, table games just aren’t fun anymore. We are advertising something that we are not delivering. Our games in the pit have become areas where the fun has ceased to be the outcome, only something that happens if the customers force this it to.

Why do we make table games and their operations so ultra-conservative and a way-too-serious part of our gaming product? Going to a casino shouldn’t be a sedate experience. Isn’t the product we are selling supposed to be an entertainment event? The atmosphere in most table game areas has about all the fun and excitement as a hospital waiting room.

I may be dating myself (as I generally do with these articles), but I remember when the table games industry wasn’t as serious as it is now. In most instances, when I was a dealer, I had fun, and so did the customers. I had fun with the customers; I had fun with my co-workers. Most of the time, I enjoyed both. I used to look at my job as a dealer like the old Army recruiting commercial, “It’s not just a job, it’s an adventure.”

Maybe times have changed, but it seems that nobody is having fun anymore in the table game theater, neither the players nor the staff. Everyone I seem to run across in table games seems to be in a definite no-fun mode, sometimes even close to being miserable.

Make it fun for the staff

I don’t know any other way to put it, but we need to put the fun back into table games before this product vanishes as we know it. First step here: loosen up.

For all you clueless table games managers and especially you pit supervisors, start looking at what your job actually is more closely. You are not cops or junior FBI agents, so stop acting as such. I know there are game procedural and protection issues that you must deal with, but you don’t have to act like you’re protecting the president, do you?

Your job, of course, involves dealing with all the technical functions that go with the territory. Game procedural issues, accounting, managing the dealers and game protection are all part of the job, but unless you pit bosses get more into the customer interactive roles you need to get into, your position may soon vanish.

Try having some fun with the customers. Even better, try having some fun with the employees. Yuk it up a little bit. You will find both your job and your dealer’s job a lot more enjoyable.

Ken Blanchard’s books and programs based on the “One Minute Manager” all preach the concept of looking for something right in your employees instead of looking for something wrong. Maybe that’s the path you have to take. Start looking for some opportunities to have some fun and jump in. You will see attitudes change instantaneously.

My table games managers should start redefining the roles of their supervisors. If we want table games to grow, or even survive, we need to categorically change the role of pit supervisors. Maybe we should move toward more hosting, more toward being an entertainment facilitator and less of a policeman-type. The floor supervisor can be a great marketing tool but only where we use them as such.

Maybe we can direct more training toward this vein. How about some customer service or even some basic people skills training for this group? Enough training on technical issues, maybe more training on how to entertain the customer.

We put so much emphasis on this type of training for dealers, yet we neglect the supervisor. Its time to include this group because if the supervisors don’t buy into the more-fun atmosphere, the dealers will not be able to. The dealers can’t entertain the customers when the supervisors don’t.

I produce a casino dealer customer service course called “The Dealer as Entertainer” that trains staff to act more reflective of their true roles. I try to instill the thought process that, as a dealer, your job more closely resembles an entertainer than a factory worker. Maybe I should start using the same concepts for training supervisors. The Supervisor as Entertainer is the same conceptual idea. You supervisors should look at yourself as part of this entertainment product also.

We can just start with a little loosening up in dress codes. We still make our supervisory staff dress pretty formally for the venues they work in. Maybe we should re-think the whole suit and tie formal wear we put this group into. Suits and ties may be appropriate for Las Vegas or Atlantic City but probably not for most Indian Casinos. Isn’t it strange the only people in most of these casinos in a tie are the supervisors?

Let’s rethink where we are going with table games. If our product is selling fun and excitement, isn’t it time we start delivering what we advertise? Start with a little loosening up. All will have more fun, maybe even you.