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Rod Smith

Casinos Eliminating Craps Position

27 August 2004

LAS VEGAS -- Question: How many employees typically work a craps table?

Answer: Four ... er ... well not so fast there, buddy.

Another longtime Las Vegas tradition is starting to see the dice come up snake eyes as several gaming companies move to eliminate the box man position at craps tables.

The latest victims were 26 box men at Caesars Palace, which eliminated the decades-old jobs on Monday as part of a cost-saving move, Caesars Entertainment spokeswoman Stacy Solovey said.

The trend is industry-wide. Box men sit behind chip and money boxes in the middle of the table and oversee all cash transactions, catch mistakes and decide any disputes between players and table workers. Their elimination is part of a trend mainly aimed at cost-control, sources said, because of better electronic surveillance technology.

"We've already done it at Paris (Las Vegas) and Bally's (in September 2003) and the Flamingo (November 2002)," Solovey said.

"We're consolidating the positions. Floor supervisors and craps dealers, usually three at a table, will take on the responsibilities of the box men," Solovey said.

MGM Mirage spokesman Alan Feldman said his company has eliminated some box man positions, particularly at MGM Grand and New York-New York although they are still used at Bellagio, The Mirage and Treasure Island.

"By and large, this is a response to technology. The ability to surveil games with cameras renders the box positions somewhat irrelevant," he said.

Many craps players, however, are unhappy with the reorganization of the craps areas both because they see the box men as playing a critical referee function and because it could be a harbinger of things to come.

Jack Hood, a 20-year Caesars Palace veteran craps player and a self-employed businessman from Valparaiso, Ind., said the efficiencies for the casino owners will slow the games and hurt customer service.

"I don't really understand why they're doing it because it's always been a must position. It seems as if it's wrong, but the casino world is changing fast."

Other customers and casino hosts who asked not to be named explained the "eye-in-the-sky" surveillance cameras casino officials say can replace the box men are inferior substitutes because someone will still have to spot mistakes made by the craps dealers or stick men. Further, they argue it can take days to chase down a tape and review it to rule on disputes.

Alan Mendelson, a regular craps player at Caesars Palace and a Los Angeles newsman who has seen the effects of cutting box men positions at MGM Grand first hand, said the move has hampered play at the casino.

"I saw it there, and it was a pain in the ass. It's bad for players and for the casino. As a frequent visitor and player at Caesars, I'm very disappointed and surprised," he said.

"Box men are necessary for the game, to protect both the casino and the customers and to keep the game moving smoothly," he said.

The trend has been evident for a couple of years, Mendelson said, and swore that casinos that eliminate box men will all lose him as a customer.

"I think the whole thing is a shame. Every casino on the Strip has good dealers and stick men, but there are times when they make a mistake. The box men are good at catching them. It's real important in today's culture of customer service," Mendelson said.

Mendelson said the craps tables are the wrong place to be cutting back.

At least one other major operator in Las Vegas agrees with players like Mendelson and said its casinos have not eliminated the positions and won't.

Boyd Gaming Corp. spokesman Rob Stillwell said an important component of customer service would be lost if his company eliminated its box men positions.

"The pit responsibilities evolve with technology, but the box man is one of the positions that we won't change. Customer service is one of the biggest considerations because it's a primary function," he said.

Mendelson said the moves is particularly ill-timed because of the rapid growth of tribal gaming in California and the likelihood of expanded gaming there by January.

Las Vegas operators need to underscore the quality of the casino experience here, Mendelson said.

"The little old ladies from California won't be going here anymore. You've got to keep the high-end games to differentiate Las Vegas from California," he said.