Casinos cutting back on floor supervisors, whose jobs evolving

In a cash-intensive business with constant temptations to steal, casino floor supervisors and pit bosses were once as ubiquitous as cards and dice.

But fewer suits are hovering around blackjack, roulette and craps tables these days to make sure there’s no monkey business.

Like other industries, casinos are trimming their biggest expense — labor — and relying on technology to fill the gap. Among those taking the hit: floor supervisors, who have long served as deterrents to crime.

Security experts and casino employees suggest that downsizing comes at a price — the risk of the theft of cash and chips when the temptation to steal is at an all-time high.

In Las Vegas, supervisors who used to watch one to four tables per shift watch six to 10 tables, reflecting a gradual, years-long downsizing. Their immediate supervisors, the pit bosses, have been phased out at some casinos, following the same fate as other casino jobs now performed by machines or remaining employees.

Atlantic City casinos adopted the downsizing much more quickly, after the state loosened regulations requiring a certain number of supervisors watching casino games. The estimated savings, in the tens of millions of dollars, was necessary for the region’s struggling casino industry, representatives say.

The trend, coupled with more sophisticated video surveillance, has also changed the role of some supervisors, who earn from $60,000 to $80,000, from security eyes to customer-service workers focusing on high rollers. The supervisors also have been freed up from tracking gambling action at the tables, thanks to the use of loyalty cards and computers.

Jeff Voyles, an industry consultant and UNLV gaming management professor at UNLV, says casinos are putting less emphasis on security than they did decades ago, partly because of payroll costs.

“When I first got into this business, I thought it was amazing to have a manager every 10 feet,” he said. “It was like having a (security guard) outside every store at the mall. Nobody has that. But (casinos) could afford that at the time.”

Arrests for casino employee theft went down in 2010 after spiking in 2009, according to data from the state Gaming Control Board. Figures for this year aren’t yet available. Although arrests don’t tell the whole story on theft, the Control Board’s enforcement chief, Jerry Markling, said he isn’t aware that theft has increased as a result of having fewer supervisors on duty.

The big casinos will typically involve the board if someone has been caught stealing or cheating, he said.

Bill Zender, a casino security consultant and former Nevada regulator, said casinos are taking a big risk by downsizing. “A floor supervisor can’t reasonably watch more than six games. So they’re not going to catch mistakes. And surveillance only has a handful of people (monitoring security cameras) so they’re not going to catch them, either,” he said “I think (casinos) are going overboard trying to save a few dollars, and I think they’re missing the point.”

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  1. Isn't this always the story: companies save a nickel that ends up costing them a dollar and then begin to wonder why employee moral is down. Case studies and books are written in abundance on this short term money-saving tactic which in the end is a long term money-losing strategy. Here's to repeating history.

  2. Anytime cash is handled or exchanged in the casino industry a living breathing third party must be there to observe the transaction.

    Las Vegas surveillance operators do an execellent job in protecting the casino assets. The "eye in the sky" support is after the fact. Less than 3% of all thefts on the casino floor (thefts in motion) are caught in the act. Some experts say the number is much lower. Most thefts are seen by a patron or an employee, who tells a floor supervisor, who then calls surveillance. In a large casinos the floor supervisor is criticial in maintaining the integrity game. If it's JDLR, call surveillance! If the casino reduces their floor supervisors who will make call? Among other things!

    The partnership of surveillance and the floor supervisor is the first line of protection and customer service. You take this partnership out of balance and the casino lost ratio per year in both actual theft and business will take down the bottom line. The worst part, the casinos do not measure this effect in terms of reduction in staffing. Usually, top executives will place the blame on marketing.

    The employees play a large part in developing loyal casino patrons. It takes a lot of time and money to get to the level repeat customer, a loyal customer. The casino floor supervisor is an integral part of the process.

    The casinos that are committed to servicing the customer and protecting the company assests know the value of having a well staff casino floor, in slots and table games!

  3. Really? Security anywhere is over rated. It is a deterrent NEVER recovering what they actually cost to operate. All you need is the threat that someone might be watching. Smart move on the casinos part and good riddance to an employee with whom the dealer might have to split hard earned tips.

  4. I don't spend time in casinos except to pass through them to a restaurant. However, I have watched the employees at the tables and have always admired them for their skills (how do you keep track of all those chips on a craps table?), but more so for their apparent ability and training to maintain a courteous demeanor, not infrequently in the face of some who are far more than simply rude.

  5. This may be a case of "penny-wise & dollar-foolish."

  6. It will help the serious b-j players. they don't want a suit standing next to them buzzing in their ears all the time and watch how they're adjusting they play according to certain factors....

    From Switzerland