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Heads Up!

Recent events have caused me to wonder if hanging around casinos has, in fact, become a hazardous job

Heads Up!

I’ve always admired people who are brave enough to swallow their fears and do a dangerous job. Policemen. Firemen. Soldiers. Gaming writers.

What, you don’t think this is a hazardous profession? Once, I dropped a pen, and had to bend all the way down to pick it up off the floor. I could have been killed!

Seriously, though, recent events have caused me to wonder if hanging around casinos has, in fact, become a hazardous job. And I’m not talking about the recent robberies, either—although I’m guessing they could be reduced by following one security tip: If you see a guy walking around wearing a ski mask in a casino in July, he’s probably not on his way to the slopes.

No, I’m talking about the inherent hazards of being in a casino, including my greatest occupational fear—getting hit on the head by a box of poker chips. Before I go to a press event in a casino, my wife always tells me, “Watch out for guys in ski masks, but for God’s sake, don’t get hit on the head with a box.”

Not really, but after what happened down in Tampa at the Seminole Hard Rock, she just may.

A Florida woman sued the Seminole Tribe of Florida in June for “disability, disfigurement, hospitalization and lost wages” because she says she incurred “severe injury” when a box of poker chips hit her on the head. She says one casino employee was tossing a box of poker chips to another employee, and she intercepted the pass with her skull.

Usually, cases like this get settled, but the Seminoles are having none of that. In fact, tribal attorneys filed a “demand for a jury trial” on June 29, certain that the player is exaggerating the injury and the circumstances surrounding it.

Now, I don’t have a horse in this race, but I’ve got to side with the casino on this one. First of all, I question the lady’s story. Poker chips are not transported in a “box,” like the cash from tables and slots, which are housed in big metal drop boxes. They are usually carted to and from tables in big plastic-topped racks, wheeled over in a secure cart.

No one’s passing a poker-chip tray. You can’t get a good grip on the plastic, so you can’t get the tight spiral you need for a pass, especially if the other employee is running a downfield route across the casino. Plus, the chips would go everywhere, which would be great for the players but not too appealing to the casino bosses.

Even if it had been a metal drop box instead of a plastic chip tray, I’ve been in casinos for 30 years, and I’ve never seen two numbskulls from a casino’s staff playing catch over a player’s head.

“Drop box coming! Go long!”

Or, because it’s baseball season:

“Full count on this drop box.”

“OK, let me have it fast, up and in! Strike zone is from the dealer to the player on Fourth Street.”

The other thing in question is the claim of “disability” and “disfigurement” from a “severe injury.” The alleged incident was last October, and she evidently left the casino that night and went home. Then, six months later, she claims she had been chewed up in some grisly mishap between fumbling employees that caused a steel box to slam into her head, disfiguring her for life.

What happened, if it even happened, was that she got bonked on the noggin with a box, which was a plastic tray, for all I know. That’s not turning anyone into a circus freak. I’ve seen guys hit by fastballs who are in better shape than she claims to be.

(You didn’t think you were getting away without another baseball reference, did you?)

OK, something like that might cause a bump. Or, as journalist Janelle Irwin noted, in a cartoon reference that I wish I would have written, “a giant bump” which “emerges from the head and some unknown antagonist then throws a horseshoe at it.”

 It looks like the case is going to trial, so I’m sure I’ll be able to mine this situation for more comedy down the road. In the meantime, be careful out there in the casinos. You never know when a chip tray is going to go flying by, or pit employees are going to play catch with a steel drop box.

I’m guessing this lady’s next lawsuit will involve an anvil, dropped on her from the ceiling. By a coyote.

Frank Legato is editor of Global Gaming Business magazine. He has been writing on gaming topics since 1984, when he launched and served as editor of Casino Gaming magazine. Legato, a nationally recognized expert on slot machines, has served as editor and reporter for a variety of gaming publications, including Public Gaming, IGWB, Casino Journal, Casino Player, Strictly Slots and Atlantic City Insider. He has an B.A. in journalism and an M.A. in communications from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA. He is the author of the books, How To Win Millions Playing Slot Machines... Or Lose Trying, and Atlantic City: In Living Color.