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Howard Stutz
 

Wynn Dealers' Complaints Rejected

14 September 2006

NEVADA -- Nevada's labor commissioner Wednesday rejected complaints filed by more than 100 dealers over Wynn Las Vegas' new tip pooling policy, saying the program where tips are now shared between dealers and supervisors is legal.

"Based on what we've seen, Wynn Resorts is not violating state law regarding tip pooling," Labor Commissioner Michael Tanchek said.

Tanchek said the state's Department of Business and Industry will continue to look at Wynn Las Vegas' new policy and investigate any new complaints. He also cautioned other companies about instituting a similar tip-sharing concept.

"My biggest concern about this policy is that other properties will look at what Wynn did and try to put their own plan into place," Tanchek said. "Wynn seemed to have good advice and got it right. Others might try it and get it wrong, and that would be a concern."

Wynn Las Vegas officials announced the new plan in meetings with dealers and supervisors Aug. 21. The plan also included a restructuring of the table games division.

On Sept. 1, table-game supervisors began sharing 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.

Tanchek said the casino complied with a state law requiring that all employees affected by the policy receive seven-day advance notice of a change in pay.

Wynn Las Vegas President Andrew Pascal said he hopes the ruling by the labor commissioner puts to rest concerns that the program violated any state laws.

"We believe in the program, and we believe it was the right thing to do for our property," Pascal said. "We wouldn't have implemented the program if we didn't think it was lawful. The most important thing we can do right now is press ahead, continue to provide information and answer questions and hope that people make a judgment based on real information."

While the dealers' take-home income has been affected, with some dealers earning an estimated 15 percent to 30 percent less than before the tip-pooling policy was implemented, actual salaries were not affected, Tanchek said.

"It's a legal distinction between wages and income," Tanchek said. "The dealers are seeing a reduction in income. But because it's a tip, it's not a reduction in wages."

Pascal said dealers at the casino were some of the highest paid in the city, earning around $100,000 annually; almost $13,000 in straight wages and about $88,000 in tips. He said the tip earnings would fall to about $77,000 a year.

Tanchek said the state's deputy labor commissioner and the office's chief investigator went to the resort to talk with Wynn executives and observe how the tip pooling was handled.

He said as long as the tips are being shared by Wynn employees who participate in customer service, the pooling is legal under Nevada Revised Statutes 608.160, the law that restricts an employer's access to tips and gratuities awarded to workers.

"If there is a complaint that employees not involved in customer service are participating in the tip pooling, that would become a concern," Tanchek said.

None of the dealers filed claims for wages owed, but most of the complaints centered around whether the policy violated the tip-pooling laws.

Several Wynn dealers, who asked not to be named, said they weren't surprised the quick outcome went in favor of the resort.

"Mr. Tanchek is clearly not looking out for the best interest of the workers of Nevada. The state of Nevada is stirring up a serious problem now," said one Wynn dealer in a post on CasinoDealers.net, an Internet forum.

One dealer who refused to be identified for fear of losing his job told The Associated Press the disgruntled dealers plan to take their complaint to federal authorities next before seeking legal help. But he said he plans to keep dealing.

"Until that time we have to consider our families and our responsibilities at home," he said.

Pascal said that since the restructuring and tip pooling were implemented, about 75 Wynn dealers applied for supervisor positions while some supervisors asked to go back to dealing. He said Wynn Resorts has committed "millions" to the program to boost the salaries of supervisors that will also be augmented by the tip pooling. In addition, Pascal said Wynn Las Vegas had implemented a bonus program for dealers.

"We still have a group of dealers who are disappointed, but we hope the commissioner's ruling clarifies what we're doing is lawful," Pascal said.