Wynning through intimidation

The Wall Street Journal last week reported on Nevada casino operator Steve Wynn’s plan for taking tips from casino workers and giving them to management employees.

On Aug. 21, Wynn told Wynn Las Vegas employees that he was changing the titles of floor supervisors and pit bosses to “casino service team leaders” and giving them a portion of tips earned by dealers. He also said he would raise supervisors’ pay in addition to giving them a portion of dealers’ tips. Wynn reportedly considers it unseemly for workers to be earning more than managers. It is not clear how Wynn gained access to the tip pool to change its distribution, since state law prohibits casinos from taking tips from workers.

The Journal reported, “A big question in the casino industry is whether rivals will adopt Mr. Wynn’s move. A spokesman for Harrah’s Entertainment Inc., the world’s largest casino operator by revenue, said, ‘We don’t have any plans to change our system, but we will look at what happens there.’ “

The newspaper also said, “Bringing supervisors into the tip pool means that dealers’ income will drop, though it isn’t clear how much. Wynn Resorts says the drop would be 10 percent, while dealers contend it will be closer to 15 percent or 20 percent. Managers would see their pay jump to about $95,000 annually with new tip income factored in, the company says. … Dealers have been hesitant to speak out. They fear losing their jobs and hurting chances for future employment. Unlike thousands of service employees at many Las Vegas casinos, dealers in Las Vegas are not protected by labor unions.”

However, some dealers have posted messages at CasinoDealers.Net: “The image of ‘Steve Wynn’ convinced us we were safe, but the image was just a mirage.”

State gambling regulators have taken no action. Commissioner Michael Tanchek told the Las Vegas Review-Journal, “[W]hen we looked into it, we found they weren’t doing anything illegal in terms of state law.”

Nevada Revised Statute 608.160 reads, “It is unlawful for any person to: (a) Take all or part of any tips or gratuities bestowed upon his employees. (b) Apply as a credit toward the payment of the statutory minimum hourly wage established by any law of this State any tips or gratuities bestowed upon his employees. … Nothing contained in this section shall be construed to prevent such employees from entering into an agreement to divide such tips or gratuities among themselves.”