Take it from someone who has been there, it is not easy working for a gambling casino.
Oh, it sounds glamorous. Working in a glittering neon establishment that provides 24-hour pleasure to its customers, where everybody seems to be having fun (except the losers), and where the management keeps millions of dollars in a vault waiting to pay them out seems to be the ultimate job.
It may appear that way to the uninitiated, but I can assure you it is not.
There are millions of people around the world working at nine-to-five jobs who have dreamed, however fleetingly, of working in a casino. They reason they will be near the place that can accept their wagers on sports, poker, slots, dice and any other game of chance or skill that meets their fancy.
Not that there aren't good-paying jobs in a casino. There certainly are. Some casino positions pay more than you could earn for the same work in a non-casino setting. But is it worth it? Let me tell you my story and let you decide.
I once worked for a publisher who was born in Trinidad and who owned a weekly newspaper in St. Kitts. He was a hard, demanding individual who rarely complimented his employees. The best you could expect from him was to be spared from his criticism, which came fast and often.
My own standing with Kenneth Williams was a bit different than the others. I was an American citizen working in paradise, the only white person on a staff of multi-cultural dimensions. I loved the work, my fellow employees and the tropical island full of coconut trees, dazzling white-sand beaches, beautiful island girls and cloud-topped mountains that looked like they were covered with snow.
I remember overhearing a brief conversations between my publisher and Charles, who was our staff photographer. Nobody ever dared call Kenneth Williams anything but Mr. Williams. Jobs were few and hard to come by in the Caribbean. Charles knew that, he was married and his wife was pregnant. But that day, he had had enough.
He glared at the publisher who was seated at his desk and sipping a cup of coffee.
'Mr. Williams,' he said, 'you treat us like slaves.'
Mr. Williams looked back at him, not unkindly, and said, 'Charles, if you were my slave, I would sell you.'
People who work for casinos, whether they are a slot technician, a change attendant, a waitress, a dealer or a suited executive, are virtual slaves to the management that runs the casino.
For starters, you will need clearance by the authorities before you walk into a casino as an employee. This requires a background check. If there are no outstanding warrants against you and your only crimes were misdemeanors, congratulations. You have passed your first test.
Most casinos have restaurants that serve decent food to their employees, usually at discount prices. Don't let this fool you. The food you receive in the cafe reserved for employees will not taste anything like the food served to the paying public. I learned this when working briefly for Don Laughlin's Riverside Casino in Laughlin, NV., a job that, praise the Lord, lasted only two weeks.
It took that long for my feet to give out. I was hired as a change attendant (This was in the 1970s, long before technology invented those marvelous change machines where you can insert bills, slips of paper and cards to get anything from cash to food comps). As a change attendant wandering around the casino, I was loaded down with about 80 pounds of silver and copper -- certainly no gold -- making change to people who kept feeding the hungry slot machines.
Cocktail waitresses and dealers receive a small hourly salary, but their tips make the job worthwhile. You can earn any amount from $50,000 to $100,000 a year as a waitress or dealer, depending on the casino and its location. I heard of one dealer, the attractive daughter of my friend Oklahoma Johnny Hale, who was given a position at a top Las Vegas casino resort dealing to celebrities one memorable evening. It was a charity event and according to Johnny, his daughter, Sarah, received over $100,000 in tips that night.
The good news about working for a casino is that if you really apply yourself, work hard, and stay straight with your employers, you can have a job for life and do well financially. It will take time, of course. But it will happen. And if my sore feet ever heal from that ordeal of toting around 80 pounds of silver, I just may re-apply for another casino job.