Pay rate for dealers surprises some

Feb. 1, 2018 | G. Michael Dobbs

As I stood at the MGM Training Center listening to the casino’s vice president of table games talk about the application process to be a dealer, I thought, “Now it’s really beginning to be real.”

Of course MGM Springfield has long been “real” – from the moment property was bought and leveled to the steady erection of the huge parking garage and other buildings, it has been most definitely “real.”

Now, however, is another phase and this one that involves something that has long been an essential part of the promise of the nearly $1 billion casino complex: jobs.

We’ve seen the impact the construction has made on the building trades, but now is the long-range permanent jobs.  

Now before I say anything else, I hope that people have been realistic about the nature of jobs in the hospitality industry. Many are entry-level positions that may not necessarily create a middle class lifestyle. Regardless, for a person who is seeking some sort of employment stability, many of the jobs one might find at a casino do offer a steady paycheck and a transferable skill. That is a very positive attribute, especially in an area such as Western Massachusetts.

I was watching the faces of potential applicants when the subject of money came up at the orientation meeting and then noted that few of them registered for classes at that time. I think some people were clearly surprised the base hourly rate for a dealer was only $5 and essentially, a dealer was a tips job such as a food server.

Now I understand about tips. I bartended. My wife was a server. Today I try to tip well only because I know how important tips are for many jobs.

With MGM the poker dealers will keep their tips, while the table game dealers will pool their tips.

Many of the people who came for the meeting left at its conclusion instead of signing up to start the process. Perhaps they were surprised at what they heard or perhaps they wanted to mull over what they had to do in order to try to get a job as a dealer.

Being a dealer is serious business. In the case of MGM Springfield, depending upon the classes you take, you may spend the better part of a $1,000 for your required education. Then if hired, there is a $300 licensing fee you must pay to the Commonwealth.

That’s a lot of investment for a job that only guarantees $5 an hour.

MGM is not necessarily being cheap here. According to, a 2014 report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics said the average wage for dealers was $14,700, but with tips the total income could be between $30,000 and $60,000 annually.

The dealers that can make the most money are poker dealers, according to the website. Perhaps this is because poker players are more likely to tip their dealer regardless if they win or lose a hand, while losers at table games may walk away – or slink –  in a huff.

It’s clearly not an easy job nor is it a job for everyone. I learned as a bartender you have to have an out-going personality to make the job work for you money-wise.

And sometimes despite your best efforts, some customers are determined to be a jerk. I had a weekly customer who would leave me a dime on his drink and lunch order no matter how prompt and accommodating I was.   

I think the real issue here is whether or not the rhetoric that has been used by some about the impact on employment in the area has been over-blown a bit.

There are plenty of people who earn a living through tips-based jobs, but any of them will tell you there are many factors that can affect what they bring home at the end of the day.

Will the jobs at MGM help the region? Absolutely. People, however, need to understand the nature of many of the jobs that will be offered.

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