Gaming Occupations at Oregon’s Tribal Casinos

Gaming Occupations at Oregon’s Tribal Casinos

by Tony Wendel

January 13, 2017

Currently, Oregon is home to nine tribal casinos located across the state. These casinos, operated by individual Native American tribal councils, provide a variety of employment opportunities in the gaming industry. The purpose of this article is to describe the major occupations at these casinos directly involved with gaming and the working conditions, training requirements, qualifications, advancement opportunities, employment outlook, and wage information for these occupations.

Occupational Descriptions

Gaming Managers plan, organize, direct, control, or coordinate gaming operations in a casino and may be responsible for formulating gaming policies for their area of responsibility. They operate under a variety of job titles including casino manager, slot manager, slot operations director, cage manager, floor manager, floor supervisor, gaming director, and pit manager. Their duties require them to be familiar with the games offered at the facility as well as the strategies employed in those games. They circulate among the gaming areas, meeting the customers, ensuring that operations are following gaming regulations, resolving customer complaints, and directing the distribution of complementary hotel rooms, meals, drinks, and other free items given to players based upon their length of play and betting totals. They also interview, hire, train, and evaluate the performance of employees and oversee work scheduling and staffing needs.

Gaming Supervisors supervise gaming operations and personnel in an assigned area. They also operate under a variety of job titles including casino shift manager, shift supervisor, floor supervisor, pit boss, shift manager, and slot shift manager. Among their major duties are monitoring game operations to ensure compliance with house rules as well as tribal, state, and federal regulations, observing players’ behavior for signs of cheating, notifying security staff of suspected cheating, explaining and interpreting house rules, game rules, and betting limits, and resolving customer and employee complaints.

Gaming Surveillance Officers and Gaming Investigators act as oversight and security for management and customers. They observe casino operations for irregular activities such as cheating or theft by employees or patrons. They employ audio and video equipment and sometimes one-way mirrors above the casino floor to aid them in surveillance. They may also use surveillance video to resolve customer disputes of payout amounts at the gaming tables or casino cage. They also report all violations or suspicious behaviors to supervisors for appropriate actions to be taken.

Gaming Dealers operate the various table games offered at the casino. They exchange paper currency for playing chips, ensure that all players have placed bets before play begins, deal cards or operate other gaming equipment according to house and game rules, and pay winnings or collect losing bets according to the rules and procedures of a specific game. They also inspect cards or other equipment to be used in games to ensure that they are in good condition.

Gaming Cage Workers conduct financial transactions for casino patrons. Their main duties include converting gaming checks, coupons, tokens, and coins to currency for customers, cashing checks or processing credit card advances for customers, and selling chips, tokens, or tickets to customers or to other workers for resale to customers. They also determine cash requirements for windows, order the necessary currency, coins, and chips, and count window funds to balance against transactions.

Slot Supervisors monitor the functions of slot machines to provide service to patrons. They are often called slot key persons, slot attendants, slot technicians, or slot floorpersons. Their major duties include verifying and paying out jackpots that are not paid by the slot machines, resetting slot machines after payoffs, monitoring assigned areas to ensure machines are functioning correctly, performing minor repairs or adjustments to slot machines, and taking malfunctioning machines out of play.

Gaming Change Persons and Booth Cashiers exchange coins and tokens for paper currency for customers. Booth cashiers typically work in change booths located in specific areas on the slot floor while change persons move about the slot floor with pushcarts and change belts.

Gaming and Sports Book Writers and Runners assist in the operation of games such as keno and bingo. Typical job titles are keno writer, keno runner, bingo caller, and bingo clerk. They issue and collect cards or tickets, operate keno or bingo equipment, call out numbers and monitor game activities, and compute and verify winnings and issue payments or refer customers to cashiers so that winnings can be collected.

Training, Qualifications, and Advancement

For most gaming occupations, skills are learned mainly through on-the-job training. While every casino is subject to certain state and federal regulations, each casino also has its own house policies and procedures for certain transactions or activities which must be learned on the job. The training for gaming and sports book writers and runners, gaming change persons and booth cashiers, slot key persons, and gaming cage workers is generally short term. The skills for gaming surveillance officers and gaming investigators require moderate on-the-job training. Gaming supervisors usually require long-term on-the-job training to acquire the necessary skills for the occupation.

The gaming occupations that may require more than on-the-job training are gaming managers and gaming dealers. Most gaming managers are required to have a bachelor’s degree, preferably in management or a related field.

Gaming dealers are a special group. Some may learn the necessary skills on the job, but most often they need to attend classes to learn the skills required to deal or run different games. In a place like Las Vegas there are schools for learning the different table games, but here in Oregon, usually the casino itself offers classes. Another difference with gaming dealers is that they usually must audition in order to get hired. During the audition, those making the hiring decision are looking to see not only how well applicants know the game and how quickly and efficiently they are able to compute and pay winning bets, but also how personable they are and how well they interact with customers.

One qualification that is important in all gaming occupations is excellent customer service skills. Casinos want friendly, personable employees who interact well with customers and make the gambling experience pleasurable whether customers are winning or losing. Another important skill for casino workers is the ability to deal with difficult and unhappy customers pleasantly, as the cards, dice, balls, or slots can’t go everyone’s way. With all the entertainment options available to people today, the importance of making an experience pleasant so that customers will want to return cannot be overestimated. Also, better service generally equates to larger tips.

Advancement in gaming occupations depends on motivation and attitude. Casinos like to advance employees within the organization after putting in the time to train them on the job. Employees who are willing to learn, quick to learn, and demonstrate excellent customer service will have opportunities to move up to positions of greater responsibility within their department or to transfer to more responsible positions in other departments.

Working Conditions

Working conditions for casino workers can be difficult. Casinos operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and 365 days a year, so workers may have to work swing or graveyard shifts, weekends, and holidays. Most positions require standing for long periods of time and some entail quite a bit of walking. Depending upon the policies of the casino, employees may be exposed to a large amount of second-hand smoke. Generally casinos are very noisy places with coins dropping in metal payout bins, jackpot alarms sounding, loud talking, background music playing, and various other sounds.

Casino workers often must deal with angry, difficult, or inebriated customers. Some, especially supervisors and managers, must deal with the occasional security problems presented by patrons trying to beat the odds by cheating. The amount of money being exchanged and handled in a casino also presents security risks and problems that workers must constantly be monitoring and protecting against.

Employment Outlook and Wages

Overall employment in gaming occupations is projected to increase statewide from 2014 to 2024. The Employment Projections table displays the projected increases for each of the gaming occupations described previously. While growth is expected, it is limited by the number of operating casinos. Each Native American tribe in Oregon must enter into a compact with the state to operate a Class III (large-scale casino-style) gaming operation. The policy by the Oregon Governor’s Office has been for one such casino per Native American tribe. Unless there is a change in policy to allow tribes to operate more than one Class III casino or to allow the operation of casinos on nontribal lands by tribes from other states, the number of tribal casinos is limited by the number of Native American tribes in Oregon.

Wage information for 2016 for these same gaming occupations is displayed in the second table. The employment and wage numbers presented are drawn from information on all employment for these gaming occupations statewide and are not restricted solely to employment in tribal casinos. Most of the jobs in these occupations are at tribal casinos. However, there are jobs in some of these occupations at bingo halls, off-track betting parlors, and other similar employers.