Las Vegas Sun

November 27, 2015

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Las Vegas lawmaker takes aim at casino tip-sharing

CARSON CITY — A Las Vegas assemblyman says the policy of some casinos to force table games dealers to share tips with others isn’t fair, and he wants the 2013 Legislature to examine the issue.

Assemblyman Joseph Hogan, D-Las Vegas, calls tip-sharing an “inappropriate intrusion” on what dealers earn from players. Tips are a large part of income for dealers who are paid minimum wage, he said.

The controversy is currently before the Supreme Court and, according to briefs, some dealers earn $100,000, including tips.

Hogan asked that a bill regarding tip-sharing be drafted last week.

Tip-sharing has resulted six-year legal battle between dealers at Wynn casinos in Las Vegas. Dealers lost an appeal to state Labor Commissioner Michael Tanchek in July 2010 but won a suit before District Court Judge Kenneth Cory.

Cory ruled that dealers could launch a class-action lawsuit.

In September 2006, the Wynn casinos adopted the present tip-sharing policy, which it maintains has been endorsed in a collective bargaining arrangement by the dealers.

But a suit by casino employees Daniel Baldonado, Joseph Cesarz and Ouyngoc Tang challenges the policy that allows tips to be shared by the box person at the craps tables and with “casino service team leads.”

Service team members track a players’ wins and losses, provide comps, assist with the players’ line of credit, resolve disputes and provide services such as making restaurant reservations.

Managers and assistant managers in the casino do not share in tips.

Wynn casinos filed its first brief in the Nevada Supreme in June, arguing that Cory was wrong and that the court should acknowledge the ruling by the labor commissioner.

It said that under a prior tipping policy, “dealers were earning more than $100,000 compared to $60,000 for floor supervisors and $52,000 for craps box supervisors.” This made it difficult to recruit the best dealers to become supervisors.

Under the revised policy, dealers receive one share of the amount in the tip pool, with lead workers receiving two-fifths of a share and box persons getting one-fifth of a share.

Under the new policy, the brief says, team leaders receive $25,000 more a year.

Don Laughlin of the Riverside in Laughlin is seeking to file a friend of the court brief supporting Wynn. So is the Local Joint Executive Board of Las Vegas that says it represents 60,000 workers and is the bargaining agent for bartenders and culinary workers.

The executive board said many employees, including cocktail waitresses and bell workers, receive a substantial part of their income from tips. But it is asking the Supreme Court to adopt a hands-off policy.

“Tip pooling is a complex and variable practice that is best left to legislative action — even better to private contracting,” says the executive board. “The law offers far too little guidance to courts for them to invent a code of tipping.”

The court has not set a date for oral arguments.

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