An interview with author / consultant
Where YOU ask the questions
Where YOU ask the questions
Bill Zender has an MBA and more than 30 years’ experience in the gaming industry. He’s widely recognized within the industry as a leading authority on all aspects of casino management and game protection and is much sought after as a gaming operations consultant and lecturer. Bill is a former part owner, vice president, and Director of Casino Operations at the old Aladdin Hotel-Casino in Las Vegas, and has written a number of books on game protection and advantage play, including the first book on card counting written specifically for the casino industry.
J.H. SM Las Vegas, NV asks:
What are your thoughts on Separation of Duties and the Wynn tip sharing program?
I understand why Wynn diverted a portion of the dealer tips to the floor supervisors, however I don't like the way it was done, specifically the timing. Wynn should have opened the property with this tip sharing split already in place, not when he ordered it, some time after the resort opened its doors. To the employees and the public, it appeared to be a "bait and switch" tactic. As we've seen it was a huge blunder by Wynn and actually changed the employment picture in the local gaming industry. Sometimes Wynn does things too spontaneous, with the main purpose being, "because he can". I believe Wynn wishes he could go back in time and change his strategy on this situation, or at least he should be thinking this thought.
As for the process of tip diverting, I have mixed feelings. On one hand I can see the business advantages of tapping into a income source to help pay down payroll expenses, especially when the income flow is disproportional to the normal pay rate. There has been a problem of pay differential between dealer and floor as long as I can remember, with the argument being, "why should floor supervisors make less money than the people they supervisor".
In comparison with other industries, this situation is completely "upside down". In a semi-skilled field, supervisors worked in a higher pay grade than the people they supervise (Note: An example of a "skilled" field on employment are sports and entertainment where the employee makes the lion's share based on their specialized skill). By diverting a percentage of the dealer's pooled tips, management creates more compensation equality while using some of the income flow diversion to reduce labor costs.
On the other hand, I feel that dealers should be able to keep the tips they earn whether pooled amongst dealers or kept individually. This motivates the dealers to provide better levels of customer service through shared business responsibilities. The dealers understand that the players they face are "their" customers as well as belonging to the casino. Through excellent customer treatment both the dealers and the casino will profit. Through Wynn's decision, this motivation level probably dropped.
When examined closer, management might discover that the higher level of customer service will increase profits to a point where it allows management to compensate the floor supervisors at an increased level. These increased revenue number are due to the "competitive edge" the operation gains from superior customer service. In this scenario everyone profits. The problem is that this situation also takes a lot of work, a team effort (and spirit), and a trust in leadership.
If Wynn would have proceeded in a more motivating direction, I believe he would have been able to accomplish his goals of reducing payroll differential, reducing cost to revenue percentages, and increase customer satisfaction by planning out a strategy based on the above later suggestion. The money he would have spent to motivate his people and develop a plan to position the operation accordingly, would have cost him less in money and aggravation than his decision to force compliance. In the basic business elements of the gaming industry, a motivated dealer does more to increase customer service and revenues that a satisfied floor supervisor. Wouldn't it be great if management can accomplish both goals?
T.L.- TGS, Las Vegas, NV asks:
Where I work the table games director seems to be more concerned about his own job security lately and in my opinion very little is being done to combat an economic downturn. Staff suggestions fall on deaf ears as we get information from the guest. In your travels do you see such fear to do nothing or is this an isolated case? Seems to me we should be adapting to positive changes the guest wants right now more than ever!
I’ve see this a lot, especially over the past several years, because of upper management’s recent “urgency” to increase revenue. In most situations I can’t blame the Table Games Director or VP of Casino Operation for subscribing to this belief in “casino survival”. Face the facts; a person’s first responsibility is to his family. Why would I want to do something different, right or wrong, that would put me in a position where I can get fired or demoted? If you don’t make decisions, you can’t get blamed for doing the wrong thing.
Some of my ideas on maximizing casino profits are very controversial (such as cutting off fewer cards, eliminating “no mid-game entry”, etc.). I’ve had a number of people in middle management positions tell me that they see my point and agree with it; however would never institute these changes. Why? Because they are afraid the changes might accidentally coincide with a negative down turn in the win or hold percentage. Why change the system, even if it’s the proper thing to do, if there’s a chance you could lose your job?
The problem with our industry is we are taught to focus on the symptom of the problem and not the problem itself. In the situation you described, what is the real problem? Is it because the table games director is weak or soft? Or is it because upper management doesn’t allow him (or her) any leeway to run their department? If I were doing an evaluation on the described operation, I would focus my primary energy on correcting the problems created by upper management, before making a determination on the business savvy (or nerve) of the games director. As you know, manure flows down hill. If you don’t stem the flow at its source, you will never correct the problem.
Adam - TGS, Las Vegas, NV asks:
You have been on both sides of the table. Have you ever been backed off?
I was backed off a number of years ago at Jerry’s Nugget in North Las Vegas. Two players and I were involved in Ace location on a single deck game. The shuffle was weak and we were taking advantage of the situation. The casino manager watched the play for a while. After four or five decks he backed us off the table. Then, along with several security guards, escorted use to the backdoor. I didn’t know it at the time, but his name was Mike Sherman, and he was also a pretty good blackjack player.
A couple of years later, I was the casino manager at the Maxim Hotel/casino. I was watching this guys play on our single deck game and saw some indication he could be counting. I turned to the shift manager, Mike Phillips, and asked him to watch the play for possibility of card counting. Mike was smiling. Mike was one of the guys I was playing with at Jerry’s Nugget the night we got the boot. “Don’t you remember this guy?” he commented. “That’s Mike Sherman. He’s the casino manager that chased you, me and Carlos out of Jerry’s Nugget”. Then Mike added, “You know, he’s also a very good card counter”. I walked up to the game, looked at Sherman, and told him he was “out-a-here”. I looked like an umpire ejecting a ball player with my thumb in the air. In this situation, I thought that turnabout was fair play.
A.C. - Dealer, Cincinnati OH asks:
The casino I work at seems to be adding side bets to everything; from the Sharpshooter on craps, to +3 and High Tie on blackjack. How do you feel about these side bets on traditional games?
If you would have asked me this same question on side bets years ago you would have received a different answer than the one I’ll give you today. Several years ago I was totally against side bets in craps and BJ. This was due to my purest beliefs, and the failure of previous side bets attempts (such as BJ’s progressive jackpot, and over/under 13).
Over the past two years I’ve spent time conducting casino evaluations for different casinos across the country and most of them utilizes some sort of side bet. After looking over their numbers, I had to jump on the side bet “band wagon”. By using side bet, the casinos’ win and hold percentage has raised considerably, sometime the hold would increase by 5% or 6%. In addition, the different locations in the country had success with different bets. Perfect Pairs may work well in one gaming market and be totally ignored by the players in another. I’m now recommending to all my clients that side bets need to be instituted on blackjack, and in some instances on craps (the Fire Bet for one).
Remember; don’t overdo the side bet option. Using too many side bets on a game slows it down and does not increase profits. Stick with one, and only one side bet. Also, side bets run their course for attracting play over time. Monitor the side bet for utilization, and if it starts to fall off, look into other side bet options.
Chris - ASM, Reno NV asks:
Two questions Mr Zender; Can a casino change the layout on craps to make it simpler for new players? And if so, what changes would you make to help take the game out of its demise?
I haven’t put any thought into developing a new “player friendly” layout. The game of craps has been on a steady decline for the last 20+ years. I was hoping that either the Gulf War or the advent of “Rhythm Rolling” craze, would bring craps back, or at least halt its demise. Another foe of the game of Craps is different gaming jurisdictions reluctance to offer dice games. California still won’t allow their casinos to spread craps using real dice. The California casinos have to use playing cards. Even simulating the use of dice has been discouraged. Canada finally approved the use of dice after years of standing firm against the use of dice. The casinos experimented with bingo blows for a while, but it’s not the same.
I wish I had an answer for getting craps back on track. I always liked dealing craps, and hate to see it relegated to alternative game status. As of January 2009 Nevada gaming revenue numbers for indicate it’s still number two behind blackjack (if you ignore baccarat), but roulette is not far back in third.
Greg - TGS, Lake Tahoe, NV asks:
Having seen you in action up here you did a good job and implemented changes that were long overdue. Which is harder, getting in the door or getting those who have the power to make changes listen?
That’s a great question for a gaming consultant. The toughest is getting the decisions makers to follow your suggestions. It’s probably the toughest part of doing consulting work.
For example; I have an organization who wants me to do an operational evaluation on their table games department. During the course of my observations and poking and prodding, I determine their games will make more money if the spend more attention at decision time and motion issues. I always present the client with a written report, but I’ve found the only way to make sure my advice is followed is to insist on making an exit presentation to the company’s top decision makers.
This works well in two ways. First, the decision makers ask questions during the presentation and have a thorough understanding behind why the changes as important to the success of their business. Second, presenting facts and answering questions in person usual results in the client following your suggestion which makes them more profitable. As a gaming consultant trying to build business, this second part is very important. The primary method for marketing my services is through word-a-mouth. If the organization implements my suggestions and is satisfied with the results, they will help increase my business. If they don’t implement my suggestion because they don’t understand the concepts, nothing happens, and I get forgotten.
This last part sounds funny, right? The organization hires my services and then isn’t interested in making the changes. This happen more that I’d like to think. I know several management teams that have been excited to hire me, but didn’t want an exit presentation. After reading my report, and discussing the issues amongst themselves the decision makers say “nah!” and the operation doesn’t do what is necessary to improve.
Robert - TGS, SoCal asks:
Due to the economy our business is down and there is a panic over labor costs. We beg dealers to take EO's, we have trimmed the staff to the bone and slam lids at 10 pm!!! I am perplexed that we have customers who wish to play BJ and there are not enough games open. I cannot believe for the life of me that a guest cannot find a seat to gamble! Busy weekends are one thing but empty tables are another. My god sir, to me this is absolute suicide! Do you see alot of this lately?
This problem happens a lot during economic downturns. Upper management focuses on reduction of cost to a point where they suffocate revenue flow. The middle management personnel get so tired of getting beaten up in staff meetings, they buckle under to the pressure. Pretty soon the main focus is not on making money, but on saving money which can limit financial gain. This is known as a “death spiral”. You can’t save your way to prosperity.
There are two common ways to increase profits; (1) Increase marketing (known as throwing money at the problem), or (2) cutting costs. In times of financial desperation, cutting cost is the best solution since it will show an immediate effect on the operation’s bottom-line profits. Increase spending on marketing will increase profits, but increases expenses with any return general seen further down the road. The greater degree of urgency usually dictates the direction management will take. The problem most management teams have is they tend to follow their strategy past its usefulness. They either spend too much on marketing after they have run out of good the marketing ideas, or they keep chopping costs until lower level managers has a hard time servicing the customers.
Getting back to the original argument; this death spiral can be reverse only if someone in management starts comparing cost savings verse loss of potential revenue. If you keep a $9.00 dealer over time one hour (cost of $13.50 plus tax/benefits) to make $72.00 in potential revenue (4 players at $20 X 60 rounds X 1.5% H/A = $72), then it’s worth it. If upper management only focuses on payroll expense as either a percentage of income or in comparison with previous period, and fails to consider the potential for creating more revenue, the operation is doomed.
Special note: What is the business background of the decision makers? If they are marketing oriented, they will lag too long in promotions. If the decision makers have a financial background, they have a tendency to chop too long. A good management team will have both sides of the equation on board, and will weight all options in an equitable manner.
D.G TGS, Las Vegas, NV asks:
An out of the box question for Bill Zender. He worked for Gaming Control in Nevada. Ask if he feels that they should have more oversight with respects to who casinos can promote or hire as table game supervisors and or shift managers. We work with people on the floor that have very little dealing experience that are driving us crazy.
No, I don’t think the Gaming Control should have more oversight on the casinos ability to hire competent help. I’ve worked in areas where the Gaming Boards dictated everything from dealing qualifications to how many cards you can cut off the deck, and I’ll tell you right now, the less regulation and oversight, the better (to a point; you don’t want zero control either).
In reality, the State is in partnership with the casino. In Nevada, they are an approximate 7% partner. They need to have some control because they want to make sure they get their fair share of the gaming revenue. Most regulator bodies also know they don’t want the responsibility of running the operation. If they did, the casinos would be owned by the State. State run casinos usually are mismanaged and will never reach the potential of private enterprise.
No, the responsibility for providing effective and intelligent management fails on the business itself. The board of directors is there to guarantee that upper management properly serves the share holders. The executive committee is there to guarantee the individual department of the hotel/casino properly follows the wishes Board. The directors of each department are there to operate their departments in the manner set forth by the executive committee. With the “internal” oversight established it is up to the department managers to respond to the needs of the business.
If the department manager decides to place the wrong people in position, the system will eventually catch up with this incompetence. Sometimes it doesn’t seem to happen fast enough when this “incompetence” affects our own livelihood. Remember, what goes around does come around. I’ve seen it happen over and over again during the last 30 years of my time in gaming.
A special note for D.G.: I’ve been in your position several times in my career. You personally have to make the decision; “Do I stay with these Bozos, or do I move on”. I’ve found that in many cases “moving on” is better solution rather than getting mad, then sullen, and eventually mutinous, over situation beyond my control.
R.G. Dealer, Las Vegas, NV asks:
The chapter in your book about the elimination of the box person on craps fails to mention that most casinos still have a standing floor supervisor per game.
Yes. The floor supervisor in dice works a dual role, as supervisor and as standing box. The situation still isn’t the same as having a body sitting on the game watching payoffs and guarding the bankroll. As the Casino-ology article pointed out, game protection isn’t the only area that is hurt by yanking the box position. The big problem is time and motion issues. One of the box person’s duties is to keep the dice moving. A good crap crew while follow this philosophy, but a sloppy or inexperienced crew will go slower since there is no one on the table to set the pace.
In addition, most casinos that have eliminated the box person position have not increased the number of floor supervisors in the dice section. They’re still missing a second pair of eyes. With today’s increase in the need to rate the play of all customers, an additional burden is placed on the floor supervisor. I’m surprised we haven’t seen incidents of dice scooting, switching in gaffed dice, and handing off chips to the corners. Then again, maybe it’s happening and we just aren’t catching it.
T. A. TGS, Las Vegas, NV asks:
We back off too many players. As a floor supervisor I spend more time watching ghosts than watching my section. SM always wants to know "the count" on a player who are winning. I think our managers need to read your material. He creates an atmosphere of "us vs. them"
It still amazes me that executives in gaming still think that card counting is still a big threat. I really think some live game managers focus on “card counting” because it’s something that is tangible. They can pick up a book on gaming and read about the theory of card counting. They all have heard about card counting teams like MIT or seen the movie “21”. The old Griffin Book is loaded with pictures of “alleged” card counters. To them card counting is more than real, its in black and white, and available to anyone who want to learn it.
What they don’t understand that only a fraction of the gambling public, probably less that 1/100 of a percent learn to apply card counting where they may be able to “eke” out an approximate 1% edge. These same executives can’t get a handle on statistical fluctuations, which might I add, is also in print. The concept that fluctuation is natural and must be understood is not even considered by most casino executives.
Subsequently, the limited knowledge of card counting and it’s mechanics, combine with their total lack for understanding win/loss frequency, creates card counting paranoia. This combination opens the door for useless game protection ideas such as cutting off more cards, no mid-game entry, and triple pass manual shuffles. All these procedures do is slow down the game and cost the operation money. Lots of money! More money that card counters will ever win!
This mindset also leads to a reduction in customer service (as pointed out). Gaming is becoming more an entertainment feature than a risk-reward opportunity. Using the “us against them” mentality is the direction of the uneducated casino executive, not that of the executive who works at becoming successful in our gaming industry.
J. B. TGSM, Las Vegas, NV asks:
Well now, Mr Zender, being that you're on a dealers website that hardly anyone reads giving this interview, my question to you is .....what do you really think of Bob Del Rossi ?....lol
Bob Del Rossi has probably got me into and out of more trouble than any one human being I know. All kidding aside, Bob is a great guy and a good friend. I have brought Bob on board with me in almost every major gaming venture I’ve been involved with over the past twenty years. Bob has four characteristics that all casino executive should strive to attain:
He’s smart and always strives to learn. He learned how to count cards on a professional basis, and also taught himself pai gow tiles, which is no easy feat. Bob’s also an avid reader. He’s constantly reads up on new ideas and new technology in gaming, and stays on top of what’s going on in gaming.
He has a great deal of common sense. I’ve never given Bob an assignment that he didn’t accomplish successful, in most cases better than I would have done. I also watched him use common sense to back down a group of British soccer “hooligans” at the bar at the old Aladdin one night. Instead of calling security, he negotiated a “truce” for a handful of free beers.
He has heart. I’ve seen him anguish over issues dealing with his staff, especially when it was something they had that was personal. His people could always come to him for advice and support. He always went to bat for people who were in the right, but I’ve also seen him show no mercy for those who were wrong.
Bob has the work ethic of a draft horse. I’ve never seen him quit a project or push it off on someone else. On a number of occasions I’ve had to tell him to go home, or take some time off. I once told him to take a couple of days off or I would fire him (for real).
Another positive aspect of Bob’s is he’s helpfulness to anyone who has gaming questions. Presently, Bob works for the Miller family and TechArt. He has brought years of gaming knowledge to that firm, and he is always ready to help his clients with questions on gaming. If more people in the casino industry were like Bob, the industry would be much better off.
But then again, how can you say anything bad about a guy who likes Red Stripe beer, the Grateful Dead, and still runs marathons in his fifty’s. Cheers!
Debra, Dealer, Las Vegas, NV asks:
Don't you people get it? All the customer service meetings and all the smoke they blow up our ass won’t change the fact that dealers who keep their own are better than those who pool.
I agree with your comment. Dealers do use better customer service techniques when they keep their own tips instead of pooling their tips with other dealers. Over the past several years the Native American casinos in California have used this system to their advantage, and under the correct conditions, dealer kept tip programs are superior.
The reason why Nevada casinos are reluctant to go to a dealer kept tip program is from past bad experiences. In the past dealers have been know to steal from the house when keeping their own tips. Pappy Smith at the old Harold's Club casino in Reno allowed his dealers to keep their own tips (also known as "going for your own"). One of his famous comments was, "I have to win every dollar I make twice". Pappy knew the dealers were taking more than their share, but because he allowed his dealers to play in the casino, even while on their break, he knew he would get all the money in the long run. I know of a number of casinos in Nevada experimented in dealer kept tips, but all of them shifted back to pooled tips because of "related" problems.
In years gone past, a dealer stealing chips off the game could commingle the stolen chips with his rightful tokes and the casino wouldn't be any wiser. When the casinos started to pool their tips, the risk/reward factors changed. Instead of a 100% return on every dollar the dishonest dealer stole, the same dollar would only return pennies because, in theory, it was being split with a number of other dealers. In addition, until lately communications throughout the industry were poor. A dealer caught stealing at a casino in Reno, could get another job at Lake Tahoe without any problem. Under today's conditions a dealer caught stealing in Florida will have a blemish on his record that will follow him to California, or Canada for that manner.
The only other stumbling block is the issue with the IRS. Pooling tips keeps a lot of your people out of tax trouble. Unless the IRS demands a fix amount per day contributed to taxes, there will always be a group of people who will try to beat the IRS and end up with tax leans and financial difficulties.
If done correctly, dealer kept tips works well. The dealers are forced to apply great customer service because they perceive the casino's customer as being their customers. If they don't greet the customers, treat them nicely, and thank them for the tips they receive, they won't be able to make the money the friendlier dealer earn. Great customer service levels mean more revenue for the casino, as well. I believe we will see more dealer kept tip programs in being used in the future.
Steve TGS Las Vegas asks:
Interesting book Mr.Zender, you make some compelling arguments. I gave my copy to my table games director and he was mixed on a couple of topics and he felt that although some topics were worth consideration it would be hard to implement being we are just one of many resorts of a major corporation. Can you effectively sell yourself and ideas to corporations or do you find it best to deal with small casino owners or tribes?
I usually don’t have a problem selling my services, but I do have problems selling my ideas. This situation isn’t isolated to just big companies, but happens across the boarder range. Many of the areas I look at for improving game production fall into a category that is sensitive to common live game beliefs.
For example; any casino can win more money by cutting off less cards in blackjack, i.e., dealing down to ½ deck instead of 1 ½ decks. Revenues increase with deeper deck penetration due to the increase in hourly hand decisions which is a proven fact. However, casino executives are reluctant to increase penetration because it is contrary to common, but incorrect, game protection beliefs.
Even though many executives have bought into the concept, they fail to make the change because it puts them personally in a bad position. If they increase deck penetration, which is the correct procedure for increasing revenues, and the casino suffers a short-term negative statistical fluctuation immediately thereafter, the executive’s job status might suffer.
Instead of being rewarded for making the correct adjustment to the game, he or she could face demotion or termination. This situation is not uncommon since most members of upper management do not have a technical background in gaming. They perceive the shift in deck penetration as a “risk” instead of an “advantage”.
Two years ago I did an operational evaluation for a major Casino corporation at one of their Midwest location. I made several suggestions as to how the target casino could improve their revenue production by incorporating time and motion procedures, and an important rule change. The company was going through some internal changes, and for one reason or another only implemented one of my suggestions. Over the next nine months other casinos in that area implemented many of the changes I had first suggested, and the company realized they had made a mistake choosing not to go in the same direction. The next year they hired me to evaluate all their properties, and used almost all my suggestions which lead to positive outcomes.
F.W. TGS Biloxi, MS asks:
Is your consulting business doing better in an economic downturn or worse?
My base income is derived from holding training classes on game protection, even though most operations would gain the most from operational evaluations. Over the past six months, money has become tight everywhere and the first thing to go is the training budget. For example; I usually hold two day seminars in Las Vegas three to four times a year. This year I have none scheduled.
However, my operational evaluation business has increase substantially. Executives find that it’s worth spending a few extra bucks to fine tune their casino operation. The two standard methods for preserving the company’s bottom line, increasing marketing spending and cutting back expenses, work inefficiently in a serious economic downturn. The company needs to use a “retrenchment” strategy which involves some cost cutting to non-production departments, increasing operational efficiency, and in some cases, selling off assets (for example; the MGM sold the Treasure Island to Phil Ruffin).
Many of my ideas for increasing live game revenues are quite controversial. In normal economic times, many executives steer clear of any operational changes that appear to be risky. In desperate times, the same executives are looking for any ideas that have a possibility of increasing revenue. In a lot of cases, there is money just waiting to be had if the operation pays attention to time and motion issues, and customer service. BTW, the difference between an average casino executive and a smart casino executive is the smart one is always looking for way to improve their operation, not just during poor economic times.
Sam TGS Las Vegas, NV asks:
What casino resort most impresses you and why?
The resort that impresses me the most for appearance, focus on detail, and professionalism, is Wynn. Despite the fact that Steve Wynn dropped the ball on his timing on the tip pool fiasco, I feel the resort is the most elegant and superior in amenities.
As an operation, I’m not impressed by any of the Las Vegas gaming corporations or resorts. Of all the gaming operations in North America, I’m impressed the most with Ameristar Casinos (and not because I did some work for them). Ameristar has great core management that combines attention to detail with the use of analytics. The executives on their management committee are all well grounded and not subject to megalomania. I see good things happening at Ameristar Casinos in the future.
Frank dealer, SoCal asks:
As everyone is aware we cannot use dice in CA on craps. This was the result of a law passed just as CA became a state and was designed to make gold miners stop gambling? Why can’t we change the law as Canada did? And, do any casinos have card craps as an option along with dice? (I ask because someone said that a casino in Vegas is doing this)
I know, what’s up with that? Seriously, California has a problem with a lot of concepts in gaming, and their consideration on gaming issues moves at a snail’s pace unless pressured by special interest groups. I wish they would forget about approving all the pseudo casino games, and let the Native American casino have traditional dice and roulette. You should see what the California card rooms have to do the offer rotating bank games of blackjack and baccarat.
BTW, I have no idea why any regular casino would try the playing card options of dice and roulette. That’s just “plan” stupid. A number of years ago the old Aladdin tried introducing rotating bank (players bank the casino does not) PGP and super pan in a special Asian gaming room. It was a huge failure. Some gaming executives feel they need to reinvent the wheel, or come up with the new version of the standard game. If the used their energies to improve their games’ present procedures, and their level of customer service, they would be way ahead of everyone else in the business.
G.L. Dealer, Las Vegas, NV asks:
I never did buy this bullshit that Vegas shouldn’t worry about Indian casinos because their customers would want to see the Mecca of gambling in the Nevada desert. Some of the Indian casinos I’ve seen are just as nice if not better than resorts on the strip. What do you see in Vegas’ future?
Vegas will always be Vegas and that’s why people will always come here. The problem Las Vegas is experiencing has nothing to do with beautiful Native American casino or new gaming locations, but the fact we have moved away from our core values. We need to focus on the gaming experience, as well as an affordable entertainment experience.
Gaming isn't recession proof; but we don’t offer gaming as our main attraction. We offer an entertaining experience where you have the option of gambling. In poor economic times people still gamble, but they don’t spend money on entertainment. As a matter of fact, entertainment is the first area where they cut back.
In the past eight years since 9/11, Las Vegas gaming companies have become greedy. They have been trying to squeeze every dollar out of the tourist and gamblers interested in coming to our desert oasis. Room price, which were once extremely affordable, have sky rocketed to levels equal to or more than New York, Miami, Chicago, or Los Angeles. Food specials have gone out the window, with the emphasis being place on high end seafood buffets. Going to Vegas used to be so you can gamble a lot, and eat and stay cheap. Not anymore. We need to get back to a period were the gaming experience is supported by the amenities, not the other way around.
L.A. Casino Shift Manager, Port Perry, Ontario
I was wondering if any studies have been undertaken or research done that has determined the optimal time a dealer should be on the table before they start to lose focus and concentration, particularly when this translates into errors. Thank you...
The last time I studied dealer error factors for time on the table was back in the 80’s at Bally's Las Vegas. I kept track of the dealer error in relationship to how long the dealer was on the table. At the time we were shifting from 40 minutes on with 20 minutes off (40/20) to 60/20’s. Management wanted to reduce payroll and moving to 60/20’s, but were cautious to the effect of increased dealer errors. After conducting informal observations for a week, I concluded that there was no substantial increase in errors during the extra twenty minutes of dealer time.
Round the same time, Bob Vannucci, the COO at the Riviera conducted a similar experiment while he was at the Dunes. Bob discovered that a dealer in blackjack was more apt to make a mistake in the first five minutes on a table immediately after their break. Based on his findings, Bob also shifted his staff away from 40/20’s, opting for 60/20’s. Bob felt that since the dealers had less occurrences of coming off break to pushing into a new game his chance of dealer errors would diminish.
In recent times, a number of Midwest casinos have gone to running 80/20’s game strings. They feel the operation will achieve the same amount of usefulness from their dealers while reducing staff (for every 12 games they can eliminate 1 dealer). Their selling point to the dealer’s is that they might work longer, but they will earn more toke money because the tip pool is chopped less ways. Unfortunately, the casinos have not conducted observations to determine whether or not the dealers have been making more errors due to fatigue. In this case, the answer to your question is still unknown. If you want to review more information on this topic, please look up my January 2009 article in the Casino Enterprise Management Magazine titled, “The Finer Points of Dealer Scheduling” Click here
Scott Cameron: Thank you Mr. Zender for taking the time from your busy schedule to do this interview.
Any closing thoughts to casino workers?
Thank you for the opportunity to answer your website participants questions. I really enjoyed the experiences.
I thought up some points that I think are important for anyone in casino management or anyone with the desire to get into management.
Important Points about Casino Gaming as a Business:
- Always stress the importance of two vital concepts regarding any form of casino gaming; (1) time and motion issues, and (2) customer service. Focus on these two issues and you will always be successful.
- Time and motion issues focus on achieving the most gaming decisions without jeopardizing customer service. The more gaming decisions you achieve the more money you make for the operation.
- Customer service is very important, especially in a competitive market. There are only two ways to achieve a competitive advantage in the gaming industry; (1) build a lavish casino that no one else can easily or quickly duplicate, or (2) develop your staff to provide optimal customer service.
- Always treat customer service as “work in progress”.
- Establish a process for continual customer service training.
- Manage your employees in a constructive manner. Provide them with a safe, friendly, and stable place to work.
- Eradicate nepotism, favoritism, and rumor mills whenever possible. Manage from the top down and do it through example.
- Learn the mathematics behind the games. Most important, understand the different ranges of volatility and deviation from the norm. An understanding of range and levels of confidence will allow you to manage with a clear head.
- It’s also important that the top decision makers in your organization understand volatility and statistical fluctuation as well. It will allow you to make critical changes to your games without worrying about condemnation from upper management when experiencing negative, but normal, mathematical fluctuation (chance favors the prepared mind).
- Don’t stick to following the norm. Be able to think “outside the box”. If you believe that emulating the major gaming corporations is the safe route to decision making, think again. Usually the “big boys” suffer from a phenomenon known as “group think”. In many cases their decision to use or follow a specific game procedure was not well thought out or analyzed.
- Honesty and fairness are the best policies. Conniving and being deceitful is not the true path of the successful business person. It’s better to lead through respect than to lead through fear.