|By Liz Benston, Las Vegas
SunMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
March 23, 2011--Dealers at Caesars Palace this month voted down a labor contract that would have shared 15 percent of their tip pool with other Caesars employees.
The provision is similar to the policy Wynn Las Vegas implemented in 2006 and is being fought in court. Dealers have appealed a 2010 decision by Nevada's labor commissioner in favor of Wynn's tip-sharing arrangement. The commissioner argued previous case law authorizes casino management to force tipped employees to share their tips with other customer service employees. At Wynn and Encore, dealers' immediate supervisors, people who didn't regularly receive tips before the policy was implemented, share in the tips.
Caesars' proposal is written more broadly by entitling "nondealer employees" to receive up to 15 percent of the daily tip pool. Management has said it reserves the right to redistribute tips and putting it in the contract doesn't mean it will be implemented. Before Caesars dealers voted for union representation in December 2007, management told dealers it had no intention of following Wynn's lead.
A Nevada Supreme Court ruling in favor of Wynn would likely lead other casinos to follow suit, dealers say.
Caesars dealers, who voted 305 to 2 against the proposed contract, also criticized a provision that would have required workers to deal cards for 80 minutes followed by a 20-minute break. The industry standard, spelled out in Wynn's recent contract with dealers, is 60 minutes of work.
"We were able to convince Wynn that this was counterproductive to business to have tired, worn-out dealers," said Kanie Kastroll, president of the Transport Workers Union Local 721 and a Wynn dealer. "Dealing high-action games with abusive customers can be mentally and emotionally exhausting."
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Last year, the Venetian dissolved an arrangement with online poker room PokerStars, which had organized a poker tournament at the resort, after concerns from Nevada regulators about business dealings between casinos and Internet gambling companies running afoul of federal law.
California regulators stepped into the fray this month when they attempted to remove PokerStars' involvement in a poker tournament at the Bicycle Casino in Los Angeles. Although some signage was removed, the tournament was held, with many competitors playing on PokerStars to qualify.
In 2009, in one of the biggest federal crackdowns on Internet gambling sites accepting bets from Americans, the Justice Department seized tens of millions of dollars from bank accounts used for online poker transactions, including those originating on PokerStars.
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Jay Kornegay, who runs Las Vegas Hilton's race and sports book, discovered an unusual sight when he got to work before 7 a.m. on the first day of the NCAA men's basketball tournament last week.
In a room set aside for customers to watch sports, men had filled all the chairs, which face a wall of high-definition TVs that were still off. That they had staked out their spots so early was a testament to the concept behind the "Ultimate Fan Cave," a nonsmoking room that opened this month in a former poker room, Kornegay said.
The Hilton's increasingly smokeless sports book is part of a cultural shift in Las Vegas, where casinos are adopting smoke-free gambling zones to accommodate the majority of customers.
"The biggest complaint we get from customers is the smoking," Kornegay said. The "Fan Cave," a humorous take on the term "man cave," may acquire a double meaning, as it is equipped with ceiling fans and a system that sucks up smoke.
Prohibiting smoke in an entire room makes more sense because smoke travels easily from one betting station to another, he said. Outside of that room, more than half of the Hilton's 300 or so chairs for race and sports bettors are designated nonsmoking -- a dramatic change from the dozen or so nonsmoking chairs available when Kornegay took the job six years ago.
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