What’s The Difference? – Gambling With An Edge

What’s The Difference? – Gambling With An Edge

A friend originally from out of state, Sam, told me that tipping practices in Las Vegas seemed strange to him when he first moved here. After class one day, he asked me my opinion and felt I gave him a self-contradictory answer. 

“Tell me more,” I responded. “What inconsistency did I give you?”

I had told him that I typically tipped little or nothing when it came to video poker jackpots, but generally left between 15 and 20 percent in restaurants — except buffets where I left less because far less service was required. 

His question was what was the difference? It was all people serving me. Why did I tip some places and not others?

Although understanding that my answer is personal and everybody else will have a different point of view, tipping in restaurants is a well-established custom in this country. (Other countries vary on this.) Tipping is just a cost of eating in restaurants. But if I were barely scraping by financially, tipping would be one of the first things I gave up.

In casinos, however, I believe it is optional. People tell me I should tip such-and-such percentage on jackpots. This really depends on what stakes you play. If you play for stakes where W-2Gs are few and far between, these are rare events. You are usually ahead on any day you get such a jackpot. Tipping doesn’t affect your bottom line very much. 

If you play for stakes where you get many, many jackpots, tipping can easily eat up all of your profits. Just receiving a taxable jackpot doesn’t mean you’re ahead today — or this month — or this year. Twelve hundred dollars is an arbitrary amount set by an old tax law. 

I’ve written many times about when I tip in casinos. I don’t need to do that again today. 

One thing I haven’t discussed is that the failure to tip can sometimes lead to attitude and retaliation by slot employees. Not so much in major casinos, but in small places. Nevada has a number of 15-machine gaming establishments — and if you don’t tip here, you can really get the cold treatment. (And I do tip in these places. If I’m playing in one, you can bet there’s a good promotion going on. I would never play at one without a profitable situation.)

Can you deal with employees giving you bad attitude and slow service? If not, you will be easily shamed into tipping more. I usually have a book with me (often on my cell phone) and I can outwait such poor service. If it gets too bad, I’ll make a judgement call. Sometimes I end up tipping. Sometimes I just give a silent FU and never come back.

When I explained all this to Sam, he explained that where he came from there were very few establishments where you could gamble. You got to know the employees. Nobody was a stranger. 

I gamble mostly in Las Vegas and other places where there are numerous casinos. I can see how the circumstances Sam came from might make things different. If I tried to be a professional player in such a place, perhaps I’d come up with a different tipping strategy than I use today.

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