09/01/2006 12:00AM

Wynn takes from the dealers and gives to supervisors


You knew sooner or later it would come - a correction to stem the growing imbalance of workers making more than their boss. Laborers taking orders from those who make less than they do? If you don't believe it happens, just take a look at all the overpaid professional athletes who just can't seem to get along with their lesser-compensated coaches. Terrell Owens come to mind?

In the real world the pecking order is, for the most part, in line. But, when you get into the tip-driven world of gaming, there is quite a different picture.

Steve Wynn has changed the landscape of Las Vegas with his hotel casinos and now he is about to change the landscape of those who deal the cards. In a controversial move, Wynn has notified his dealers at Wynn Las Vegas that as of this past Friday their tokes are to be shared with the bosses in the pit.

There is no secret that the dealers at Wynn Las Vegas are among the highest paid in the city. Currently, the unwritten policy in Las Vegas casinos allows the dealers to divvy up their tips among themselves. While the pit bosses usually make more base pay than the dealers they oversee, when the gratuities are added to the bottom line, the dealers can well afford to pick up the check for the after-shift drink at the bar.

That discrepancy is magnified at the top Las Vegas casinos, and Wynn Las Vegas is at the top of the list.

In making the decision, Wynn said it was to correct the "outrageous" disparity between what the dealers ultimately earn and the fixed compensation that their bosses receive. According to published reports, dealers at Wynn Las Vegas average an income, with tips, of around $100,000 per year. The pit supervisors earn around $60,000 annually.

At face value, it would seem that the dealers are (pardon the pun) taking a big hit. But, (pardon again) it really isn't as much a bust as the raw numbers would suggest. Wynn officials estimate that the new tip-sharing policy will take an average of $10,000 a year from each dealer's bottom line, while the supervisors will now earn about $95,000 a year, thus all but eliminating the disparity.

Of course Wynn knew the policy change would cause a serious reaction from his team of dealers, who, after all, are the direct connection to customers and their play. Keeping the dealers in a good mood is keeping the customer in a good mood. So, Wynn will institute an "incentive program" for dealers, hoping to offset the drop in their drop, so to speak.

The dealers' reaction was predictable. Everything from "just not fair," to "a cheap way to get pit bosses better pay," were the comments of those who expressed their opinions on condition of anonymity.

But no dealer suggested he would walk away from the job because of the new policy.

If the policy creates the parity it is intended to accomplish, then there will be other casino operators certain to follow suit. And, that's when the policy will face its real test.

Ralph Siraco is turf editor for the Las Vegas Sun and host of the Race Day Las Vegas radio show.