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Arnold M. Knightly

Dealers group asks Nevada about tip rules

2 November 2009

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- A dealer's advocacy group is asking state gaming regulators if the Wynn Las Vegas tip-pooling policy is breaking any state gaming regulations.

The International Union of Gaming Employees on Sept. 23 filed a complaint with the state Gaming Control Board, claiming the gaming company is violating state gaming regulations by failing to comply with federal and state labor laws.

The group also asks if the integrity of the casino floor is jeopardized, and if there is a conflict of interest, since former floor supervisors and pit managers, now termed service team leads, are sharing in the tips.

Al Maurice, president of the nonprofit union, said that the packet contains enough information for gaming regulators to investigate the Wynn without waiting for other jurisdictions.

"Every authoritative bureaucracy in Nevada that the tip problem has been before has tossed it in another's lap like a hot potato to the point of embarrassment," Maurice said. "We have given the Gaming Control Board sufficient information to act."

Gaming Control Board Chairman Dennis Neilander said Thursday that the regulators are reviewing the packet but it is too early to comment.

He did say, however, that the board's audit division is preparing a preliminary report on Wynn Las Vegas' internal control standards, although he has not yet seen the report.

Wynn Las Vegas President Andrew Pascal announced the new policy Aug. 21, 2006, in which the positions of floor supervisor and pit manager were combined into the new position of casino service team leads who would share in the tip pool.

The memorandum said the team lead positions "protect the integrity of the games," and are "authorized to resolve disputes" with customers up to $500.

If the team leads benefit from the outcome of the games through tips, how can they be impartial in their decisions, Maurice said.

State Labor Commissioner Michael Tanchek is considering the policy's legality but doesn't expect to issue a ruling until next year.

Wynn dealers are asking Tanchek to find that the resort's new tip policy violates state labor laws and award about 500 dealers $35 million in back pay and penalties.

Attorneys for Wynn dealers filed a class action lawsuit in 2006, but the state district court dismissed the lawsuit saying the state labor commissioner's office was the proper venue for the case.

The state Supreme Court upheld the lower court's opinion in October 2008.

Attorneys for Wynn have maintained that the tip policy complies with state laws. They said the resort's tip-sharing policy allowing front-line resort employees to share dealers' tips is comparable to a restaurant sharing tips between busboys, bartenders and waiters.

Wynn Las Vegas did not return a call for comment.