Wednesday, July 20, 2011 | 2 a.m.
New technology, cost cutting and an evolution in the way business is done in casinos has led to the demise of many job classifications. Some jobs are replaced by positions requiring different skills. Others are phased out without any jobs to replace them. Industry observers say the following list will lengthen as technology, amid a culture of fiscal conservatism, makes some positions obsolete. Here are some endangered and extinct Vegas jobs:
/Lori Cain/Las Vegas Sun
To cut costs, many casinos have eliminated the job of pit manager or pit boss. At some casinos, floor supervisors who once reported to pit bosses now report to shift managers. Tasks once performed by the pit boss, such as tracking wins and losses among games, opening or closing games, comping players and changing minimum wagers are divided among remaining employees. Some casinos have a “lead floor” position that is ranked higher than a floor supervisor but pays the same. Some casinos say fewer supervisors are needed these days because surveillance cameras are able to catch cheats — one of the many traditional tasks of a floor supervisor.
Photo by Ethan Miller/Las Vegas Sun
Like the fancy movie theaters of bygone eras, casino showrooms used to employ “captains” who would usher customers to their seats. These hosts could be counted on to reserve choice seats for big gamblers — in exchange for fat tips. The bigger the tip, the better the seat — or so the culture in Las Vegas dictated. In the 1980s, casinos began replacing these highly tipped workers with seat reservations systems and numbered seats used today. Showrooms still employ attendants who can help you find your seat — without any expectation of a tip.
Photo by Steve Marcus/Las Vegas Sun
These workers wrote odds for sporting events on erasable white boards and, before that, chalkboards. Race and sports books in Las Vegas dropped them years ago when they adopted electronic wall boards that can automatically update odds with the touch of a button. Although modern casinos no longer employ board people, the position still exists at older casinos in town and in some countries that lack modern technology. This was a full-time, labor-intensive job involving updating betting lines that frequently changed based on the volume of wagers on either side of the bets. Board people have been replaced by administrators charged with monitoring and updating the digital boards.
/Lori Cain/Las Vegas Sun
Whirling pingpong balls in cages were once an icon in the casino business. Although many casinos still offer keno, the game is a prominent victim of the luxury boom, as high-end resorts didn’t include keno lounges and old-fashioned coffee shops. The Strip has lost more than half its keno parlors in the past decade. Keno runners were known to walk through the coffee shops, taking cards from bettors who didn’t want to walk to the keno lounge to play. In place of drawing actual balls at random, many casinos offer digital keno as one of many games installed on slot machines. Electronic keno can be played faster than the original version and without the cost of employing people to collect wagers, draw numbers and pay winning bets.
Women who walked around the casino floor making change for customers were once a common sight in Las Vegas. These employees wore heavy metal devices containing coins and pouches for bills about their waists. They were phased out with slot machines that accept and dispense tickets instead of coins. Some older casinos still have a few coin machines, which are no longer manufactured. Modern slot machines generally accept bills as well as tickets. In lieu of cash, today’s slots dispense tickets that can be redeemed for cash.
Proposition players and shills
Many Las Vegas casinos have phased out the use of proposition players and shills. Proposition players received fixed fees to participate in card games with their own money, keeping winnings and absorbing losses. Shills generally earned hourly wages, turning over winnings and passing on losses to the casino. Employing such players allowed casinos to start card games or keep others going. They could give customers the impression that their casinos were busy — which in turn attracted players to the tables. Rather than shutting down games for lack of players, casinos could keep game goings, which could be more profitable in the long run.
Many Las Vegas casinos eliminated boxmen a few years ago to save money. One boxman would sit at each craps table where the chips are located. Casinos reasoned that other employees who work the craps tables, including two dealers and a stickman, could just as well watch the chips and conduct other tasks performed by the boxman.