You probably wouldn’t be reading the words on this page if I had ever gotten promoted in the casinos where I worked.
It started with my first job in the casino industry. I was selected to be in the first dealers’ class for the Boardwalk Regency, the original name of the Caesars property in Atlantic City. I did very well, finishing at the top of my class, and in line to be one of the better dealers.
But then I ran into licensing issues. Apparently the investigators didn’t know what to do with the year I lived in Argentina in the early ’70s, so my license was delayed for four months. When I finally began working, I was relegated to the trenches—dozens of $2 and $5 minimum games that were full of fleas from opening to closing time (in those days, Atlantic City casinos were required to have a certain number of low-limit games and were also required to close every day for a few hours).
I couldn’t get the attention of the bosses, so I asked the casino manager if I should take another game.
“No,” he told me. “You can go just as far with one game as with multiple games.”
I didn’t listen to him, fortunately, so when they offered a baccarat class I took advantage of it, and was soon transferred to the baccarat pit. It was like a different world in there—high rollers, elegant women, lots of money… and all the bosses hanging around.
I soon impressed them with my baccarat dealing skills. I was assigned to the high-limit games with the most pressure and the most discerning players. Bosses sweated the money—most of them, anyway—but saw no flaws in my dealing. But my one flaw—a fatal one, apparently—was I couldn’t keep my mouth shut. I ventured my opinion on things like how the pit should be run, and what players were more important than others.
Soon, I saw some of my classmates getting promoted with me being left behind.
So I was a prime target when some Golden Nugget executives came around recruiting dealers for their baccarat games. The Golden Nugget had been open a year and quickly supplanted Caesars as the preferred spot for the high rollers in Atlantic City. I jumped at the chance to work for Steve Wynn and didn’t look back.
The experience at the Golden Nugget was invaluable—including the opportunity to meet Wynn when he would come sit at a dead baccarat game and shoot the bull with the dealers and supervisors. It was a Ph.D. in gaming.
But my seniority at the Nugget was far behind all the original dealers, and I knew I’d never get promoted there. So when Steve Wynn sold the Nugget and it became Bally’s Grand, I knew my time was coming to an end there. When one of my pit bosses at the Nugget moved to the next new casino, the Showboat, I followed him there with the promise of a promotion dangled in front of me.
The Showboat, however, turned out to be a disaster, poorly organized and run. I became resigned to play out the string.
At that time, I had begun writing for the casino employee magazine in Atlantic City, and asked my editor for a regular salary (far below what I was making as a dealer, supplemented by commissions from ad sales), and I decided to rely on a talent I knew I had rather that the “juice” I knew I didn’t have. It was tough dropping my standard of living, and my adult children now joke about the “good old days” of poverty.
In the end, it all worked out. I became the only trade journalist in the casino industry who actually had experience working in a casino. Those “bosses” I tried to impress at Caesars, the Golden Nugget and Showboat became the top-level executives at many companies across the industry. They knew I had the casino chops, so conversations with them were deep and fruitful. Finally I had juice!
So a hearty thanks to those who passed me over for promotions that in retrospect I probably didn’t deserve. And while unlike lots of people who read GGB, I was never a fan of working for a casino, I love writing about them. So once I decided to follow my passion, my life and attitude improved markedly.