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Mixed Progress: The Plight of Female Casino Employees in America

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While gender equality in the American casino industry has improved significantly from decades ago, women are still largely stuck in low-paid and thankless positions.

This website has published numerous articles over the past two months about women in the gambling industry. While we’ve taken pains to cover both the production and consumption ends of gambling, we have focused largely on female gamblers and casino executives at the expense of paying more attention to working women in the industry. This includes croupiers, cocktail waitresses, pit bosses and bartenders.

While the industry has come a long way with regards to gender equality, casinos remain some of the least female-friendly places to work. Women are often treated disrespectfully by both clientele and male colleagues and face diminished opportunities to advance into management compared to their male counterparts. This piece will take a look at the women who occupy several professions integral to the running of a casino.

Cocktail waitress

It’s no secret that men visit land-based rather than online casinos in America
in large part to be pampered by scantily-clad women. Many establishments in both Las Vegas and Atlantic City now feature “party pits”, sections of the casino dedicated for visitors to relax and be entertained rather than play table games. Unsurprisingly, it is common practice for party pits to be staffed with women younger, thinner, and dressed more revealingly than those in other parts of the casino. The upside is that these women make more money in tips; the downside is that they often have to deal with mistreatment from drunken and disrespectful clientele.

•As in most industries, women working in casinos in the US face discrimination and the lack of opportunities for advancement

•Most female employees work as cocktail waitresses or croupiers, while most managers remain men

•New Jersey passed a law during the 1980s setting a quota for the amount of women which casinos must hire, which helped spur progress in gender equality in casinos

In 2012 seven female waitresses employed at the Golden Nugget Casino in Atlantic City sued their employer for discrimination. The complaint? Casino management passed them over for positions in the newly created party pits due to “not meeting the physical criteria” for the position. They claimed that only women between the ages of 19-26 were given the positions, which were at “economically advantageous locations and time slots.”

Such instances are not uncommon in the casino industry. The establishments do as much as possible to cater to the primarily male clientele, which included hiring and retaining waitresses largely on account of their physical appearance, not skill or tenure. This is a problem that male wait staff generally don’t have to encounter.

Croupiers

The conditions faced by croupiers depend completely on the casino in which they work in. Most casinos hire roughly equal amounts of male and female croupiers, who in both cases wear uniforms which emphasize professionalism over sexuality. However, some casinos which cater almost exclusively to male clientele require female croupiers to wear more revealing attire at the blackjack table and in the American poker room.

In addition, female croupiers face daily abuse which their male counterparts generally don’t have to deal with. Male players often get drunk and make sexual advances toward croupiers, or verbally abuse them when they lose. The abuse of female croupiers is worse in casinos serving more high-rollers. As casinos are dependent on the money of these wealthy gamblers they give them more leeway than the ordinary customer. This often means the ability to verbally and sometimes physically abuse male and female croupiers alike. This is reported to be an especially serious problem in Macau, the favored hotspot for wealthy businessmen across Asia and the Pacific. A survey from the University of Macau reported the profession to be one of the least satisfying in the city, due not in small part to poor treatment on behalf of customers.

Pit Bosses and Upper Managers

It isn’t difficult for a woman to get a job as a croupier. In many cases it’s relatively easy. But it is difficult for a woman to be promoted to the position of pit boss, which overseas and manages an entire section of the casino. Wynn executive Debra Nutton became a pit boss during the early 1980s, a time when most Vegas casinos only hired women to work as cocktail waitresses. She recalls: “All I wanted to do is work at The Mirage…They hired 27 pit managers; I was the only female.”

Things started to change in the early 1980s when New Jersey made gambling news by passing a law that Atlantic City casinos must have at least a 43/57 percent female/male ratio on their casino staffs. This increased opportunities available to women, some of which started as croupiers and moved up to become pit bosses and corporate executives. The same trend occurred in Las Vegas, and currently 51 percent of casino staff members in the city are women. While things have improved significantly, there remains a major gender gap in casino management. According to Nutton: “There is definite room for improvement here. The dis¬parity grows as you move up.”

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