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How Do You Tip at a Casino?

By Mary Perez, The Sun Herald, Biloxi, Miss.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Oct. 21, 2007 - GULFPORT -- Tipping is part of the game at the casinos, but who should you tip and how much?

Some patrons at Island View Casino in Gulfport said most people tip the cocktail servers, but fewer people tip the housekeeping staff. Several patrons were unsure of how much to tip.

Shift manager Glenn Raley said dealers and cocktail servers depend on tips to pump up their take-home pay. Though most people know they should tip food and beverage servers, "The dealers get tipped all different ways," he said, with no set percentage and sometimes in chips. Many people don't realize a tip is customary, he said, until they see others tipping.

Alan Silver, director of casino studies at the Coast campus of Tulane University, said there are guidelines for tipping but like other casino patrons, he gives what he feels is fair.

"The biggest thing we push is customer service," said Raley, and when customers are happy, tips follow.

Here's a look at tipping from the point of view of employees and casino customers:

Valet parking: Jeremy Bammert said a good minimum tip is $2 and it is usually given when the car is picked up. The biggest tip he received was $20, and he averages about five $5 tips per day.

A customer from Florida said she pays $1 to the valet. Silver said he often gives $1 when he drops off the car and $2 when he picks it back up.

Bellhop: Patrick McLean said almost everyone gives a tip and the best he ever received was $60. For groups, a tip of $2 to $4 per bag is often surcharged. He believes a flat tip of $5 is fair.

A customer from Texas said she usually pays $2 per bag.

Cocktail server: "The norm is $1," said Lori Bartz, although some people admit they don't know how tipping works. "The beverages are complimentary," she tells them and said about 60 percent of her patrons tip. Her biggest tip was $200, but she's received as little as three cents.

A customer from Waveland said he generally tips about $5 per drink.

Bartender: Quinton Cooley said, "Every time I give a drink I get a dollar," which he feels is a sufficient tip. Regulars always tip and about 75 percent of his other customers tip.

A patron from Gulfport said if he hit a jackpot at the video poker at the bar he would leave a big tip. Otherwise he gives $1.

Dealer: Craps dealer Chris Bartman said, "We provide a service for the guest. We entertain them." How much they tip for that service is up to them. Those who play for awhile often tip more than once. His highest tip was $1,000 from an individual and $5,000 from a group. Some players make bets for the dealer as their tip. Others don't tip when they lose, he said.

"They (the dealers) usually end up with more money than I do," joked a customer from Laurel. She was playing blackjack and said she tips more if winning. Another guest from Florida tips between $5 and $25 at the card tables. "He just saw somebody win $3,000 and they didn't tip anything," said his wife.

Slot floor person: Any jackpot over $1,200 at the slots brings a slot floor person and tax forms, said Shonda Wagoner. About half the winners actually do tip, and those who play often know to tip. Like dealers, there is no specific amount and customers decide what they are comfortable with, she said. "One lady gave $2." Her best tip was $300 or $400.

"If I hit a big jackpot I give a tip," said another patron from Gulfport, and if she won $1,200 she would be so happy she would give a bigger tip. "I'd give to everybody including the cleaning crew," said her friend also of Gulfport.

Wait staff: Bruce Baldos waits tables at C&G Grill at Island View Casino. He said about 75of the customers tip, generally $3 for lunch and $3 to $5 for dinner. He thinks 15 to 20 percent is fair. Like most people in the hospitality industry, when he goes to a restaurant, "I tip over," he said.

At the Island View buffet, waiter John Foster said some guests give a 10 percent tip and some don't tip at all. Middle-age customers are the best tippers and he agrees many aren't aware of how much they should tip at a buffet. His biggest tip was $85 for serving a group of 35 people.

Personnel from the Seabee Center in Gulfport said they tip more at a full service restaurant than at a buffet. They generally tip between $1 and $3 for a $10.69 lunch buffet, which at the high end is better than the 15 to 20 percent they pay at a restaurant. The tip depends on how good the service is.

There are some jobs in the casinos where guests aren't aware they should tip, including housekeeping and the cashiers. Some guests leave a couple of dollars in their hotel room for the housekeeping staff, said assistant executive housekeeper Patricia Bartholomew. She thinks leaving $5 per day is standard. "That's what I do."

Jessie Clark, cage manager, said customers do tip the cashiers, but there is no set amount for filling out credit applications and cashing personal checks.

Guest Relations Manager Christie Pittman said several departments share tips, including cocktail waitresses, who tip bartenders at the end of the shift, and the wait staff sharing tips with the bus staff. Tips aren't expected at the front desk but appreciated if service is good, added Pittman.

Just don't tip the security staff. "We're not allowed to take tips," said Island View Security Shift Supervisor Kevin Helton.

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To see more of The Sun Herald, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.sunherald.com.

Copyright (c) 2007, The Sun Herald, Biloxi, Miss.

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