Old ones first: Tipping is not a city in China. In the USA, tipping is definitely a big thing. If you have ever forgotten to leave at least 10% – 15% for your waiting staff, there is a very good chance you were probably chased off the premises. Tipping is an essential part of the economy in the USA, where the minimum wage for customer-facing service staff is lower than those working away from the public. It’s also good karma to show your appreciation for the work and effort of these relatively low paid staff.
In Las Vegas, some croupiers – working the craps table at a big-name casino – can earn up to $100,000 a year in tips. The average is probably about half that amount. If you are lucky enough to visit a live casino, it’s important to get the dealer on your side. One of the ways to do this is to tip like a pro. Want to know how? Here are the tip tips…
#1. Where do I tip?
This varies from country to country. In Europe, only England and Monaco really encourage tipping. In fact: tipping in the UK was illegal until the introduction of the 2005 Gaming Act. In the USA, the culture of tipping is ubiquitous. In Las Vegas, you would be encouraged to tip everyone: from your driver and the doorman, to the porter, waitress, and even the receptionist. Be smart: a twenty dollar tip could be worth a $100 room upgrade.
In some European casinos, tipping dealers is discouraged, as it can draw suspicion. The situation is similar in Asia where tipping is not the norm. If you are not sure, just ask.
#2. Who do I tip?
It all comes down to two things: how deep are your pockets and how smooth do you like your ride? In Las Vegas, tipping is the norm (and a necessary evil). If you want drinks at the blackjack table, you need to tip the serving staff every time he or she delivers; normally, at least a dollar per drink. If you are looking for a special – off strip – game, the doorman or concierge is traditionally the font of all knowledge. Tip him to unlock it. Tipping the dealer is also very much the norm – but a little more complicated.
#3. Tipping the Dealer
There are several different ways to show your dealer some financial love. Live casino dealers generally work about 40 minutes in every hour. They need to take frequent breaks to stay sharp. You can tip a dealer for a session or just throw down single dollars every so often. It’s important that you never hand the money directly to the dealer. Just put the tip outside the betting area and let the dealer know it’s for him or her.
Alternatively, you can share your winnings with the dealer. This is a particular favourite at the poker table. If a player hits a big pot, it’s common practice to share a percentage of the pot with the dealer. Normally between one and five per cent.
#4. Betting with the dealer
A fun way to tip your dealer is to make a bet on their behalf. If you are playing blackjack, it’s quite easy. You can either place the tip chip ahead of yours, so that it is half in and half out the betting circle. This way, the dealer keeps both the bet and any winnings. Alternatively, you can just put the chip on top of your bet. This way, the dealer gets the winnings but not the ante. In roulette, you simply inform the dealer that this bet is for them and make sure the chip is slightly offset. In craps, you can bet two ways, splitting any winnings.
#5. Tipping online
Recent years have seen the evolution and growth of live dealer online casinos. There are many different versions to try. Some feature a tip box where you can show your appreciation of the dealer’s hard work – especially if you are on a winning streak. Of course, one of the best things about online gambling is that you can choose to say humbug to it all, and avoid the tips, the drinks, the unwanted chit chat, and other people; just concentrate on your game.
#6. The whales that tip
Make no mistake: tipping can be big business for croupiers working in the world’s top casinos. The craps team at Steve Wynn’s Las Vegas casino were rumoured to be earning tips in excess of $100,000 a year; supplementing a $40,000 salary.
The late great Australian media tycoon Kerry Packer was renowned for his generous gratuities. Packer was an avid gambler and there are at least three stories of him paying off the mortgage of either a lucky cocktail waitress or croupier.
One of the lucky recipients told Packer that she could not accept the tip stating that ‘all tips had to be shared’. Packer called over her manager. Told him to fire her on the spot. He did. Packer paid the woman and then told the manager to rehire her.
At the end of the day, if you’re on a roll, enjoying the evening, stacking up the chips, why not share your good fortune with the many people helping to make it happen. Alternatively, check out some online gaming and channel your inner Ebenezer with some totally tip-free action. Perhaps the best tip anecdote comes from Soho jazz club legend Ronnie Scott who, when asked for a tip, replied: ‘never pat a burning dog’.