VEGAS INC Coverage
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.”