casino dealers & the death of the 60/20 string: cracking the code of the new industry standard.

638f992f6d78f2cc3af87dfdde94199941a200146c720ed4c315898091e74447What if I told you that you could pocket an additional $25 a week and all you have to do is work an extra 40 minutes? Whoa, not so fast. I don’t mean just today, I mean everyday you work! That’s right. I’ll pay you an additional $25 and all you have to do is work 3:20 more hours a week! What? $7.50 per hour doesn’t sound like a good deal? It’s not. But guess what? That’s pretty much what Boyd Gaming and Caesars Entertainment are doing to their dealers. And they’ve been doing this for quite some time, too.

Let me break it down for you.

Unretiring My Dealing Hands
I returned to the Blue Chip floatin’ Casino for my second stint as a dealer back in 2008. What I didn’t realize is, in the intervening years, the powers-that-be changed the dealer rotation. The industry standard for dealers is they deal for 60 minutes, then take a 20-minute break. Over the course of your shift, that’s the rotation; 60 minutes in, 20 minutes out, 60 minutes in, 20 minutes out…you get the picture. You’re paid during your breaks. The tradeoff is you don’t get a lunch break, but over the course of an eight-hour shift, it amounts to about six hours of dealing with about two hours of breaks in between. And believe me, you need that break for numerous reasons: repetitive stress, rest your feet and back, rest your eyes and brain from the numbers, rest your lungs from the smoke and your hands from the cards, cheques and felt.

This 60/20 rule is pretty much the industry standard. Well, it was.

The 80/20 String
Somewhere between my “retirement” from dealing in 2001 to my return in 2008, the good people of Boyd Gaming decided to change things. They instituted an 80/20 string which, for the individual dealer, essentially subtracts one of his/her breaks. The result is a dealer will work about 6:40 of an eight-hour shift.

Management sold this change to dealers by appealing to their greed, insisting it would drive up the amount a dealer takes home in tips after a shift. How? Simple math. Let’s say there are 36 live tables in the casino. That means the house need 36 dealers to occupy those tables continuously throughout the eight-hour shift. When a dealer takes a break, a relief dealer taps in for 20 minutes. Anyone who’s played blackjack has experienced this. The relief dealer is either a godsend or el diablo!

Under the 60/20 rule, relief dealers run three-table strings. So if there 36 tables, the casino needs 36 dealers + 12 relief dealers (all running three-table strings) to maintain full operations. Under the 80/20 rule, the house still needs the 36 dealers, but only nine relief dealers (running four-table strings). Running 80/20 strings has already shed 24 hours from the payroll for this eight-hour shift. Pretty clever, eh?

But dealers make the bulk of their income on tips (tokes, as they’re known by dealers). And this is how the house convinces dealers it’s a good thing for them, too. See, by running 80/20, there are less dealers per shift. Less dealers will surely raise the toke rate since there are less pieces of the pie to cut, right?

Well, let’s break that down.

Under the 60/20 Rule, for an eight-hour shift, 48 dealers x 8 (hours) = 384 hours. Let’s say the standard hourly rate is $7.25. That means payroll for that shift totals $2784.

Under the 80/20 rule, 45 dealers x 8 hours = 360 hours. At the same hourly pay rate, total payroll would be $2610, saving the house about 9 percent in payroll. Imagine how much that saves the house in a year.

Of course, Less dealers = higher toke rate, right? I mean, that’s the promise from management. Were they right?

For the sake of argument, let’s say the dealers dropped a total of $6000 in tokes over that same eight-hour shift. At a place like Blue Chip, they take the total tokes and divide it by the total hours worked by dealers to arrive at an hourly toke rate (Tokes/Hours = Toke Rate). Add that toke rate to your hourly wage, and that’s how much you made per hour in the last pay period.

Stay with me. I know math isn’t everyone’s favorite subject, but it tells a great story here.

Toke Rates, Dissected
Using the Blue Chip toke rate method, the 60/20 dealers have a $15.62/hour toke rate. The 80/20 dealers? $16.66. Sure, a dollar more an hour sounds like a lot, but is it really, when you consider you have to work an additional 3+ hours per week to get that?

In Las Vegas (and most casinos) tokes are divided at the end of the night for a daily “envelope” toke rate. The 60/20 dealer will take home $125 in tokes for the night while the 80/20 dealer takes home $133.33. I think we know which dealer is buying the first round after work, eh?

After Uncle Sugar Gets His Cut
Sticking with the Blue Chip toke rate method for a moment, let’s suppose that toke rate holds up over a two-week pay period. How much will dealers gross? A dealer working the 60/20 gaming floor: $1829.60. The 80/20 dealer? $1912.80. What about after taxes? Using for Indiana, it comes out looking like this: 60/20: $1351.03; 80/20: 1404.12. In other words: about $50 per pay period.

That’s about a 3.8 percent income increase for the dealer who gives up one break per shift and works 20 minutes longer per string.

That’s right. For working an almost seven extra hours, you made an extra $50. And yes, you most certainly worked more for it. The management notion that you’re doing the same amount of work and making more money is not true. What is true is the house is getting the same amount of output from its dealers and making A LOT MORE MONEY!

Boyd Gaming’s Employee Of The Month: the 80/20 String!
Thanks to you, 80/20 string, management cut nearly 10 percent off its payroll, putting six figures, easily, back into their pockets. And they did it with the simple stroke of a pen. For you to make an extra $50? Seven more hours of slappin’ jacks, spinning the wheel and moving the dice.

Next time upper management extols the economic boon of the 80/20 string, make sure you remind them you’re wise to their shell game. Sure, it’s great for corporate bean counters who want a bonus. For dealers? Please. You know what they’ll tell you: dummy up and deal.


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Filed under analysis, casino, dealing

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