Can different dealer shift starts increase toke rates?
As a casino dealer, earning great tips may feel like it comes down to the mood of the table. However, any dealer who has spent time on the gaming floor knows how attitude can positively influence tips. Earning higher tips is all about having good customer service skills: smiling when appropriate, having a professional yet friendly approach, addressing players by name, and most important, celebrating players’ wins.
Seasoned dealers know that while acknowledging customers by name and being prompt to start a conversation are important, having a customer recognize you, know your name, and prefer to approach your table is invaluable.
This being said, what can a dealer do when armed with the best attitude and desire to serve, but there are not enough players and too many tables open? Alternatively, during busy shifts, tables are packed and the good tippers at a table do not get to play at their preferred pace of game. This lower-level of patron experience can potentially hinder a dealer’s tokes as well.
Of course, there are many factors that affect the toke rate such as the player quality and game mix. All other factors being constant, can toke rates increase with dealer shift start times and schedules that are better aligned with patron demand? This is where management’s role is pivotal.
In North America, table games typically have three core dealer shifts: 12pm-8pm (day), 8pm-4am (swing) and 4am-12pm (grave). Between 6am-9am, demand generally bottoms out. With low demand, the house is making less money and the dealers are earning lower tokes. Low earning hours decrease the overall dealer toke rate. Keeping dealers for their full shift, particularly during off-peak periods, causes frustration since many rely on tokes.
If Pit Managers are not actively managing early outs, many tables could be sitting empty. However, if dealers are sent home early, it can result in a short-staffed day shift for the mid-morning resurgence of business (around 10am) and a missed revenue opportunity.
Toke distribution can also affect the toke rate. In many parts of the US, tokes are typically pooled and distributed daily or weekly. A daily toke pool benefits both the operator and dealer as individual dealers have more control (and reward) over their tokes. They have a stronger incentive to provide a good patron experience. A weekly toke pool can be simpler to administer, however, stretching out the tips over a longer period can be less motivating for dealers.
As an operator, an effective solution in the above example would be to realign schedules to demand. For example, switching dealer shifts from the above scenario to 10am-6pm (day), 6pm-2am (swing) and 2am-10am (grave). By decreasing off-peak labor hours, the toke rate can increase without compromising the day shift. Alternatively, staggered shifts can be used as a strategy to bring staff in at 10am instead of noon and still keep the same core shifts. The realigned dealer shifts spread out the tokes over fewer, but more profitable hours. Thus, the dealers earn more money, in less time.
A step further would be to identify the strategy, or ideal environment that enables dealers to generate the highest toke rates. It can be argued that maximizing the net contribution of a player’s visit to the property will result in the highest toke rate. A topic for a different blog post, but optimal utilization or optimal table occupancy will allow for this. For example, if a $25 blackjack game has an optimal occupancy of three players per table and we are forecasting 21 players to come to the property next Monday at 10am, the operator needs to schedule enough staff to open seven $25 blackjack tables for that time.
Aside from bottom-line gains from reducing wasted labor hours and better table performance, dealers are given an optimal environment to earn a higher toke rate.
It is management’s responsibility to schedule dealers in the most efficient way. By realigning dealer shifts or better yet, moving to dynamic scheduling, operators foster a motivating dealer environment while also reducing wasted labor hours. In turn, dealers are more engaged, have a higher toke rate, and therefore, can provide a better patron experience.
Ari has over a decade of experience in Casino Operations and has worked across multiple jurisdictions in North America including Las Vegas, Atlantic City, Florida, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut. Prior to joining Tangam, Ari was the Senior Director of Table Games at Parx Casino where he was responsible for over 100 table games and a team of over 800.
With nearly 20 years of casino experience, Victor has worked at various Canadian casinos where he trained staff and managed both table games and slots operations. At Tangam, he helps clients all over the world implement data-driven management of table games spreads and pricing on the gaming floor to achieve their revenue management objectives.