Casino Dealer Tipping: Do Online Live Dealers Actually Make Less Than Their Retail Counterparts?

One of many union objections to iGaming expansion is the anecdotal notion that land-based croupiers earn more in tips than their online casino live dealer counterparts. However, extensive research by Bonus shows that the honest answer to whether online live dealers actually make less than they would at a retail casino is a frustrating “it depends.”

It depends on the casino or the online casino live dealer company’s pay and tipping structure. It depends on whether the dealer is a full- or part-time employee. Primarily, though, it depends on whether gamblers tip dealers and how much they tip them.

Surprisingly, some gamblers even told Bonus they didn’t know they were supposed to tip online casino live dealers. At all.

In other words, it isn’t easy to quantify terrestrial vs. online dealer income. That’s true despite state iGaming bill opponents testifying during each public hearing about how much more land-based casino workers earn than online casino live dealers. The drumbeat from retail casino and union representatives is that legalizing online casinos will pull revenue from land-based casinos and result in job losses. The “cannibalization” testimonials tend to say terrestrial pay is “good” and income for online dealers is “bad.”

For instance, such opposition helped defeat the 2024 Maryland iGaming bill.

Tracy Lingo, president of Unite Here Local 7 Baltimore, testified at a Maryland House committee hearing on Feb. 26.

She told the legislators why she thought the casino worker members in her union earned more than live dealers:

Those workers make most of their money from tips.

It’s unclear if that’s also true for online casino live dealers.

Maybe Live Dealer Players Need Gretzky’s Lesson

Richard F. Strafella, a long-time casino executive who appeared in the film Casino, answered questions in 2010 for the publication UrbanDaddy.

Here’s Strafella’s answer to the question, “What’s your best celebrity story?”:

I remember a night when Wayne Gretzky insulted Michael Jordan at the table. It was a private salon game. Michael had ordered a drink from the cocktail waitress, and he gave her a five-dollar chip. Wayne took it off the cocktail waitress’s tray, gave it back to Michael, grabbed a hundred-dollar chip from Michael’s stack and put it on the cocktail waitress’s tray. Then he said, ‘That’s how we tip in Las Vegas, Michael.’

Basketball icon Michael Jordan may have improved his casino tips then.

Toya Browder, an amateur poker player from Columbus, Ohio, told Bonus on May 2 about retail casino tipping practices:

Tipping is a huge part of gambling culture. It is a major portion of the dealer’s salary. For the superstitious, it cultivates good luck to tip dealers and slot staff. It is also customary to give money to players around you to generate a jovial atmosphere after a really big jackpot.

Slot players often like to ‘share the wealth,’ so to speak.

However, it’s safe for Bonus to say there’s a learning curve for new gamblers or even bettors new to US online casinos. Some haven’t yet discovered that they can tip their dealers, let alone that it’s an age-old custom among gamblers. Because, other than the 10-year-old marketplaces in Delaware and New Jersey, the legal iGaming states have only come online during the past few years.

The legal US online casino states, along with launch dates, are the following:

  • Connecticut (2021)
  • Delaware (2013)
  • Michigan (2021)
  • Nevada (online poker only, 2013)
  • New Jersey (2013)
  • Pennsylvania (2019)
  • Rhode Island (2024)
  • West Virginia (2020)

No state legislatures have yet approved online casinos in 2024. So, zero iGaming marketplace launches are expected in 2025.

Casino Dealer Tipping Online

Casino dealer tipping often happens after bettors winYes, tipping online casino live dealers is something gamblers should do.

Mike Epifani, Bonus brand content manager, advises the following on the site’s Online Casinos Hub:

Consider Tipping the Dealer

Just like at a retail casino, it’s common courtesy to tip the dealer, particularly if you win more than you lose. Casino dealers rely on tips to make a living, and they usually receive more tips from winning players. They have no control over the cards, and they want to see players win (it means more tips). Keep that in mind if you feel like they’re dealing you poor hands — although you’re definitely not expected to tip if you lose.

Casino dealer tipping beginsTaking a look at the live dealer vendor serving the majority of online gambling operators, this is what Bonus found:

Evolution (Evolution AB (publ) 4,77 -3,25%) has an intuitive tipping function.

At right, live dealer Rayne receives a $5 tip as she deals blackjack.

In 2022, that was Evolution’s most popular live dealer game.

Casino dealer tipping takes several formsBased on current research, Bonus found that the game is listed as No. 1 in most apps.

Evolution has its live dealers, like Rayne, pool tips. That means that that $5 tip from SaveTheBees will be split among the “game presenters.” Dealers divide the pooled tips based on hours worked.

The tip function begins working as soon as the gambler joins the game session.

Casino dealer tipping happens in online casinosThe dealer and gamblers at her table can see the tips arrive.

Dealers often thank the players as they see the tips come in.

Bonus News also contacted Light and Wonder (LNW), Playtech Live, and Stakelogic Live. Those companies didn’t provide comment.

Playtech (Playtech PLC 480,50 +2,23%) owns Playtech Live, which operates live dealer studios in Michigan, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Those are also the states that dominate iGaming revenue.

LNW (Light & Wonder Inc 94,74 +0,20%) is also a smaller live dealer vendor, but Stakelogic is the tiniest.

Stakelogic only serves Bally Casino in Rhode Island, where Providence-based Bally’s Corporation (Bally’s Corporation 12,10 -1,71%) has a monopoly on gambling.

Why Bonus Investigated Live Dealer Tipping

I live in Philadelphia and have the habit of starting conversations with strangers. Recently, a woman told me she’d left her career as a card dealer, with her experience as a live dealer being the last straw.

My city houses land-based casinos, as well as live dealer studios. However, the former card dealer declined to name her previous employers.

Also, she wasn’t willing to be quoted on the record but was willing to share her story.

The Philadelphian said she’d worked at a retail casino, then switched to a live dealer studio. At the retail casino, she said she made good tips and got to keep all of what she received. However, the live dealer studio pooled all dealers’ tips together and divided up the proceeds. She resented this tip pooling because she felt she’d earned her tips and had colleagues who relied on receiving a portion of what should’ve been her income. So, she felt she earned less as a live dealer vs. a retail casino croupier.

While her story may be familiar, no active dealers were willing to comment for Bonus — even off the record.

Some Retail Casinos Also Pool Dealer Tips

Richard McGarvey of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) said the regulator doesn’t collect or compare dealer salary or tipping information.

However, he did tell Bonus on May 1:

Retail casinos also have dealer tip pools.

Rocco Mahoney, a communications specialist with Unite Here Local 54, told Bonus on May 2 that none of the union’s members are dealers — online or on land. Its 11,000 members in South Jersey, Eastern Pennsylvania, and Delaware work in other areas of the hospitality industry. So, he was unable to compare salary and tipping information.

However, it appears unions handle dealer membership differently.

For instance, New York retail casino dealers are among the members of the Hotel and Gaming Trades Council (HTC). Bonus confirmed that fact on May 7 through HTC Political Director Bhav Tibrewal.

Casino Dealer Pay

Although representatives from land-based casinos and unions say retail casino dealer jobs pay better than online casino live dealer positions, the evidence isn’t readily available.

PGCB Executive Director Kevin O’Toole even told my Catena Media colleague, Matthew Kredell of PlayUSA, that he knows of many brick-and-mortar casino dealers who moonlight as live dealers to supplement their incomes. In that March 19 article, O’Toole says that Pennsylvania’s land-based and online casino jobs are growing.

Oddly, Bonus found that online casino live dealer vendors provided potential hires with information about salary and tipping totals. Career sites for Philadelphia retail casinos didn’t include that information.

For instance, Evolution advertised full-time job openings for “game presenters” on May 2. Hires could earn “$17.25 – $26+ an hour” with possibilities for “tips and monthly performance bonuses.”

Playtech Live’s full-time dealer positions at a studio in the Philadelphia suburb of Bensalem paid “$17 + Tips+ Performance Monthly Bonus, *Additional Night Differential Pay from 11PM-7AM, [and] Holiday Pay.”

Conversely, the area’s land-based casinos didn’t include dollar amounts and were often advertising for part-time dealers.

That seems in contrast to what gaming companies discussed last year regarding a “labor shortage” at land-based casinos.

So, consulting the job site ZipRecruiter on May 2, Bonus found:

As of Apr 24, 2024, the average hourly pay for a Casino Dealer in Pennsylvania is $17.15 an hour.

As of May 2023, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported “gambling dealers” earned a median income of the following:

  • $15.50 an hour
  • $32,240 a year

This may be where tips enter the picture.

Casino Dealer Tipping Anecdotes

Before Jordan and hockey legend Wayne Gretzky made that educational casino trip, gambling industry analyst Richard Schuetz was dealing cards in Las Vegas.

Schuetz told Bonus on May 2 that he was a retail casino dealer in the ’70s and ’80s:

When I dealt, it was only for tips. In fact, my paycheck was often zero or negative when they started pulling taxes out for the tip allocation.

Dealing at a store like the Wynn and the other high-end properties generates amazing tips. Also, one of my dealing jobs was in a go-for-your-own store. I made the most money of the men, for I was always talking trash and collecting cash. Also, every Sunday would be my birthday, and as the other employees left the pit, they would always wish me Happy Birthday. People would then feel sorry that I had to work on my birthday and start tipping … every Sunday.

… As a casino manager, I sometimes pushed onto a dice game, which always freaked the help. Also, as a CEO In Vegas, most CEOs had no idea what happened on the casino floor, and it would startle the help. It really gained a lot of respect for me among the folks who worked on the floor. When I would push on a game, I would immediately start hustling tips for the dealers. It was fun.

Half a century later, the advice remains: Tip your dealers.

However, it seems Gretzky hasn’t yet provided that advice to bettors during his time as a BetMGM brand ambassador.

About the Author

Heather Fletcher

Heather Fletcher

Heather Fletcher is Lead Writer at Bonus, concentrating on online casino coverage. She specializes in breaking news, legislative coverage, and gambling marketing strategy overviews. To reach Heather with a news tip, email [email protected].
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