Tipping in the gaming industry
One thing that is very unique to the gaming industry is the high preponderance of tipped employees.
Other service industries have some tipped employees but in gaming it seems almost everyone can make tips including, sometimes, managers.
Not many casino companies pay close attention to this “customer provided wage contribution,” other than to establish the necessary procedures and record-keeping for it, insure some fairness to tip earning opportunities among employees of the same job classification, and occasionally (usually among casino dealers who keep their own tips), try to insure that tipped employees don’t earn too much and upset the whole wage scale applecart.
Casino companies tend to like, or at least tolerate, such a pervasive tipping culture because, I suppose, the more a team member is tipped, the less a casino has to pay in base salary. Having been a tipped employee at several early jobs in my gaming career, I’m not sure how I feel about that.
One would think that employees earning tips would contribute to great casino customer service. However, from my experience, that is not always the case. Sure, great tipped employees tend to make great “tokes” (as tips are called in our industry), but too often this “gratuity culture” leads to only well-tipping casino customers getting great, friendly service. Perhaps that is human nature.
What I have yet to see in the gaming industry (and what I think is a great opportunity) is a casino company strategically align its interests with the interests of its tipped employees—OK, Barona Resort and Casino in San Diego is the one huge exception.
What exactly do I mean by that? I’ll try to explain and highlight the huge marketing opportunity that I see with this tipping culture and then offer some tips (pun intended) on aligning those interests.
The “casino tipping world” and the unique flow of the casino’s business patterns (most business occurring from Friday night to Sunday afternoon) creates some interesting tip situations, such as:
• Employees working busy times make a lot more in tips than those working during slower times.
• Certain tipped positions (cocktail server, dealer, gourmet room food server, etc.) make a lot more in tips than most other tipped positions (cage cashier, guest room attendant, players club rep, etc.).
• All else being equal (and certainly there are glaring exceptions), tipped employees serving VIP customers make a lot more than those tipped employees serving the masses.
• Casino employees who are allowed to keep their own tips in their job role will make a lot more than employees in that same job role who pool their tips with other employees.
With these “tip realities” in mind, here are some suggestions for leveraging the casino tip environment to help your business (let HR figure out how to make it happen):
• Always have your best employees, by whatever objective measure you decide, work the best tip-earning shifts in all tipped positions.
• Where tips are pooled, try to find ways to have best employees keep their own tips instead of contributing them to the pool.
• Investigate ways to create career paths across tipped positions in ascending order of their tipped value (e.g. players club, to valet, to dealer, to cocktail server, server in high-limit room). And don’t tell me it’s impossible!
• Find ways to promote tips for your best employees with your customers. I’ve always felt that there should be a sign at every blackjack table that said, “We encourage generous tipping for great service. For anything less, do not feel obligated to tip.”
• Quit sweating the great employees who make huge tips in whatever job role they have (unless they are doing it in an unethical way). I know a casino that has several slot attendants that make over $100,000 a year in salary and tips combined. But they magnificently serve slot players who combined, spend several million dollars a year at that casino. What’s wrong with that?
One acronym for “TIPS” is “To Insure Prompt Service.” I say, use tips to insure your best people are paid best for providing best service to your best players.
And that is a great marketing result.