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Howard Stutz

Lawyers: Wynn Tip Decision is Legal

24 August 2006

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- Dealers at Wynn Las Vegas have universally voiced their displeasure over the casino's plans to restructure tip distribution that will cut their wages between 10 and 20 percent. Legally, however, they may have little recourse, labor law experts said Wednesday.

Starting Sept. 1, table game supervisors will share in the tips earned by dealers. Wynn executives said the move is being done to correct the widening disparity between the wages earned by dealers and casino floor supervisors.

Las Vegas attorney Gregory Kamer, who specializes in labor law and represents Wynn in labor matters, believes the plan, where the shared tips will supplement the salaries earned by table game supervisors, is "ironclad" legally under Nevada law.

"This has been vetted every which way possible," Kamer said, adding that he believes other casino companies will adopt this plan. "I believe this will ultimately become the industry standard within a matter of months."

Kamer said the plan is allowed under Nevada law that deals with tip earnings. He said several rulings regarding the pooling of tips and how that money is shared by a group give the plan solid footing. He cited a U.S. District Court decision in 1975 that allowed tip pooling at the Las Vegas Hilton and opinions by the Nevada attorney general.

In the 1975 decision, a federal judge said that a group of employees all contribute to the good service given to a casino customer, and as such, should share in any gratuities.

In an Aug. 21 memo distributed to all Wynn table games employees, casino President Andrew Pascal used almost the exact language as the 1975 decision in saying that supervisors contribute to customer service as much as dealers.

"As such, it is only appropriate that each of these positions share in the generosity of the customers," Pascal said in the memo.

Las Vegas attorney Richard Segerblom, who represents employees in labor disputes, said he believes the Wynn Las Vegas tip distribution plan may withstand any legal challenges.

"Based on the legal rulings we've seen regarding tip pooling, I think they can make an argument in favor of what they're doing," Segerbloom said.

Wynn Resorts Ltd. Chairman Steve Wynn and other executives told table game employees of the pending changes Monday night.

One Wynn Las Vegas dealer, writing a post on, an Internet forum, said Wynn challenged the dealers to contest the changes.

"He even had the guts to stand up and say in the meeting, 'You can try to get a lawyer, but don't bother. Just talk to our lawyer and he'll tell you that what we are doing is legal by Nevada law,' " the dealer wrote.

Pascal said that dealers at the property are the highest-paid dealers in the city, averaging about $100,000 per year in salary and tips. But the employees supervising dealers average about $60,000 a year in salary, Pascal said.

The large tips are due to Wynn's reliance on high-end customers, such as baccarat players, and is the main reason for the salary gap.

Dealers who split tips by shifts now will share those tokes with team leaders and supervisors, who also will receive a boost in base salary.

Pascal said dealers will earn an average of $90,000 annually while supervisors will be paid $95,000.

In addition, Wynn Las Vegas will implement a bonus program that will allow dealers to earn additional pay.

"We're still going to have the highest-paid dealers on the Strip," Pascal said. "What it does is rebalances the structure of our table games division and gives a person an incentive to take on more responsibility."

Wynn Las Vegas operates 140 table games, including baccarat. Pascal said about 820 table game positions at the casino will be affected in the restructuring.

The changes won't affect the casino's poker room and slot machine area.