No matter where you are in Australia, it is illegal to tip dealers at a casino. In the United States, and much of Europe and Asia, tipping the croupier is a sacred practice to regular gamblers, with many reasons for this – some practical, and others more superstitious. However, dealers at Australian land-based casinos will not accept tips of any kind. Indeed, to take any chips or cash offered by a patron could cost a dealer their job. There is much debate about this, and a few theories as to why exactly it came about Down Under, but the bottom line is pretty clear: it’s the law.
Gamblers, legislators, and venue operators have posited many moral and philosophical reasons regarding the fact tipping dealers is no allowed within our borders, but in truth, there is no great mystery to it. Rather than start from scratch when our country’s very first casino – Wrest Point in Hobart, Tasmania – opened in the 1970s, the lawmakers of the day chose instead to mimic British gambling legislation. Among the laws adopted was an article that prevented casino staff from accepting gifts of any kind from patrons, and thus Australia’s no-tipping policy was conceived.
Since then, every State that has legalised gambling has taken its cue from its predecessors, meaning the legislature concerning dealer tips has spread all over the continent in an organic, uncomplicated fashion. So while casino bosses and politicians may try to claim some kind of moral high ground on this topic, the fact of the matter is dealers cannot take tips in Australia because that is how it has always been. However, there are a number of cultural and ethical issues that support this law, some of which are all but unique to this country.
Australia has never embraced tipping customs quite like the rest of the world. This is not because Aussies are innately stingy, but rather because the structure of our services industry differs somewhat compared to other developed nations. Here, retail and customer service employees – such as croupiers – are entitled to a much greater base wage than many of their counterparts abroad, and so they do not rely on tips to pay the bills. An excellent waiter or bartender will often get an extra reward for their efforts, but tipping is not a necessity here.
Contrast that with the United States, where retail and services workers would starve were it not for customers throwing a bit of cash their way. This applies to casinos as well; and while conditions can differ from State to State and venue to venue, most floor staff are brushing up against the minimum wage.
For example: in a middle-tier Las Vegas casino, a dealer would be lucky to scrape AUD $7 per hour from the house, but might take home upwards of $150 in tips for the night. Meanwhile, at Crown Casino in Melbourne, an entry-level croupier earns about $18 per hour, guaranteed, and the more experienced dealers can rake in as much as $30 an hour.
To tip, or not to tip: that is the question. Australian casinos are something of an anomaly in this regard, with only New Zealand and the United Kingdom on the same page. There are two opposing schools of thought on this subject, with one side claiming tipping the dealer is beneficial, even essential, to the gambling experience, and the other insisting the practice is detrimental on the whole. Here are some of the negative and positive aspects:
Corruption: The strongest argument against tipping in casinos is the threat of cheating and fraud. When a croupier sees a wealthy, free-spending gambler at the table, there are many different ways they could attempt to influence results and curry favour – from deliberate errors, to overpaying on bets, and so on. Integrity is vital in modern casino culture, and so anything threatening that can only be considered a serious issue.
Favouritism: When dealers rely on the generosity of the gamblers, you are bound to get a few who wish to maximise their chances of profit through not quite ethical means. One such way is to shower the big tippers in smiles, laughter, and top-notch service, while being rather less welcoming to those at the table who are not as free with their money. This is a kind of subliminal solicitation, designed to force every player to tip big if they want the red carpet treatment.
This can work the other way, as well, with dealers suffering from the favouritism of players and even their bosses. For instance, an attractive female dealer might rake in more tips than a plain-looking male, or a croupier who is friendly with management may be assigned to more profitable tables than a dealer who is not as chummy with the higher-ups.
Dealer Pools: At many casinos, especially in Las Vegas, all tips collected are pooled together and distributed evenly among the croupiers. This might not seem like a big deal at first, but let’s consider the wider implications.
Say you have one very good dealer who gets on well with all the customers, never makes errors, and personally racks up $350 in tips for the night; then you have another who is surly and rude, deals slowly and often mucks up hands, and only gets $50 from the patrons all up. When pooling, both croupiers would take home the same amount, even though one has quite obviously outperformed the other and contributed much more to the tally. Socialists would applaud this system, but ask any experienced professional dealer and they will tell you they’d much rather keep what they make.
Incentive: A dealer who thrives on tips cannot afford to slack off. This keeps the staff alert and competitive, and means good croupiers can earn more money due to their superior performance. Indeed, some would say this is the definition of free market economics at work, although this only applies in a ‘keep your own’ payment system – to which many casinos overseas do not adhere (see Dealer Pools).
Fun & Friendliness: It is always worthwhile making the effort to strike up a rapport and get on the dealer’s good side, and tipping generously (where it’s allowed) for quality service is an easy way to do this. A popular method in the US is to play a bet on his or her behalf. This brings some fun and camaraderie into the game, particularly when you are the only player at the table.
Strategy: This one is specifically for card counters as a means of remaining unnoticed by management. There is a belief in some sections of the blackjack community that picking and choosing when and how much to tip can have an effect on your chances of being ratted out by the dealer. This is by no means an exact science, however, and relies heavily on the nature and personality of the croupier (i.e. whether or not they are loyal to the house).
Australian gamblers just getting into live dealer games – such as the blackjack, baccarat, and roulette varieties, offered at top sites such as www.RoyalVegasCasino.com – might be puzzled as to what the tipping etiquette is via the Web, and how it works. Simply put, there is none, because Internet croupiers cannot accept tips. So when playing live casino games online, there is no need to fret about how much and how often to tip.