Controversy is always in the air when the tip earning structure for table games staff is discussed.

For good reason. Even though casinos offer dealers competitive benefits packages, it's no secret the hourly wage hovers around the minimum wage. Dealers rely heavily on tips to beef up their weekly take-home pay. The reality is that dealers are part of the entertainment industry and depend on the gratuities they receive from customer.

Nationwide hourly tip rates for dealer’s averages anywhere from $5 to $30 per hour, with the majority of tip rates residing closer to the lower figure than the higher figure. This tip rate combined with the hourly wage paid by the casino constitutes the dealers income. A low tip rate combined with a low hourly wage paid by the casino equals a job that is not very attractive...

Most casinos in the United States mandate their dealers (and all tip earners) pool their tips. This method entails all dealers combining their tip earnings in a collective pool that is then equitably shared. In some pooling situations, the table games supervisors are included, which is often another source of agita.

But more and more casinos are migrating to an older form of tip disbursement that was used in Nevada in years past and is making a big comeback in many major casinos, especially in California. This structure, commonly called “going for your own” or “going for yourself,” is a tip disbursement method where the tip earner keeps for themselves all the tips made on a given shift without pooling these with other staff. This method can be very lucrative for the tip earner as some may make a great deal more tips than in a pooling situation.

Years ago, most casino dealers kept their tips in a method used by most other tip earners. Dealers, waiters, bartenders, alike all kept their tips made during their shift individually. What you earned, you kept. The transformation of the industry into more of a corporate world situation and the government’s desire to get a better read on this cash tip distribution changed this. Dealers in most casinos were mandated by management to pool tips and distribute these tips not in cash but as part of their paychecks. This method is standard policy in most major casinos today.

Although this method succeeded in appeasing taxation officials and does result in a more orderly method to tip distribution, a number of adverse effects were also the result. The entrepreneurial spirit and sense of adventure that was once the part of the dealing scenario seemed to disappear. Dealers felt they no longer needed to work hard at the tip earning part of the job. “Why should I be outgoing and try to earn more tips when I have to split them with the other dealers?” was the complaint all felt and sometimes even voiced.

The tip pooling scenario currently in use at most gaming facilities turns the dealer into a factory worker instead of what they really should be-an entertainer. A going for your own tip earning structure, if done correctly, forces the dealer not only to be proficient at the game, but to be entertaining as well. If the dealer is something less than professional and personable, it will be reflected into amount of tip money they generate.

Other benefits you’ll notice from changing the tip policy and allowing the dealers keep their own tips:

•Increased table game drop
•Increased decisions per hour
•Increased interaction between dealers and customers
•Better morale by the staff
•Eye contact made between dealers and customers
•Verbal communication between dealers and customer

You will also notice dealers talking more. Even the ones you thought couldn’t speak!

The diminishing effect of table games in the casino environment is the result of many things. A big factor in this downfall has been the lack of individualism in our staffs. Dealers need to be creative and entrepreneurial in earning tips to make table games thrive once again. This creativity and individualism needs to be rewarded. A going for your own tip structure allows this to happen.

The dealer is the only competitive edge you have in your table game operations. The product we all sell is exactly the same; the only difference is the personnel we use. If you are going to have a successful table game operation and compete with other venues, you need to address tip structure and other table staffing issues.