Should card dealers in Las Vegas be able to keep all the tips they accrue from generous gambling patrons?
That exact question is being debated at one big name casino on the Strip — Wynn Las Vegas — after the U.S. Supreme Court punted and decided not to hear a case over the long-standing tipping dispute between the casino and 800 of its current and former card dealers.
Table hosts who deal blackjack, baccarat, craps, and poker are fighting to strike down the current tipping policy, which requires them to forfeit fifteen percent of gratuities earned and give them to their immediate supervisors, who disburse it among themselves. (Supervisors, otherwise known as “pit bosses,” are generally salaried employees who do not receive tips from customers.)
The policy was first enacted in 2006 and has been met with opposition ever since. Dealers say they’ve been shortchanged out of hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years.
Attorneys for the dealers filed the latest case in 2013 in district court and lost, with the district court arguing that, according to the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act, Wynn was right in pooling the tips for a shared status because Wynn dealers already make minimum wage and collect tips on top of base pay.
But once appealed to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, that decision was overturned.
Wynn Las Vegas then petitioned the Supreme Court to overturn that ruling, which would essentially void the current policy.
Union members that make up the majority of table hosts lauded the high court's decision as a success, and say they want to keep their fair share of the monies they earn.
“It’s not just about Wynn dealers and our tips, it’s about tip earners across America,” said Kanie Kastroll, a dealer at the Wynn and union representative of the Transport Workers Union of America, which represents the game hosts. Kastroll has calculated that she has lost around $150,000 over the 12 years the policy has been in place. She lamented the fact that she could have paid down her mortgage with such funds.
A spokesperson for Wynn Las Vegas tells Fox News the casino will still seek to defend its position, saying, "The decision of the Supreme Court to not hear the case does not ratify the previous decision, nor does it indicate Wynn has violated any regulation. The case will now be remanded back to the District Court … We will vigorously defend our position and anticipate a finding in our favor."
Nick Fortuna, a leading labor rights lawyer, says "this is like the hottest issue right now" at the district court.
"This circumstance comes up all the time … these case are flooding the courts,” said Fortuna. “The employer is supposed to pay the employee federal minimum wage, and if he pays less than that … which he’s allowed to do if the employees are being tipped, then the employer can’t force the employee to share those tips."
Worker’s rights have been at the forefront of the national debate this week. The Court delivered a blow to unions, ruling that states cannot force government workers to pay union fees for nonmembers of such collective bargaining entities.
Fortuna said clearly, labor rights are being reduced. In this particular union case, an effort by the Trump Labor Department is trying to scrap an Obama-era rule that had restricted employers’ authority to pool workers’ tips.
The financial toll is staggering, according to Kastroll. At the end of the day, she says dealers just want to keep the money they’ve earned.
“We’ve had bankruptcies, foreclosures, suicide, depression. It’s a very hostile environment in there. We try our best to go and put on a smile and give five star service … that’s our job, but deep down inside, we’re not smiling. We’re crying.”