LEARNING THE BIZ
Around the same time that I purchased a new car, I found out my future roommate, Jim, was not returning to Stockton. Rather than find a new roommate, I decided to pick up his portion of the rent and take my own room. My father was going to pay my portion of the rent while I was in school. All I had to do was come up with Jim's $150 share and his half of the room would be all mine.
Between Jim's rent, the car payment, my third of the bills, and food, I would need just under $600 a month to live. That would be no problem since I was planning to work three days a week, giving me $1000 a month to play with. I could then have a $100 weekly allowance. That sounded excellent to me.
Sometimes people do things without thinking. I did just that. This would be the first instance where I would have to come up with money every month. I knew what I was getting locked into with car payments for the next four years, so I was not totally devoid of thought. I didn't think I would be going to school for more than three more years, so I felt I could handle the job during that time. It wasn't like I was a mean person or hard to get along with. Every other job I held in the past was left only to go on to bigger and better things, so why should Bally's be any different?
At the same time I started working for Bally's, Jane started working about ten or fifteen minutes south of my place in Pleasantville. Her hours were set at 11 am. to 7 pm. That worked out great for us because I was getting many 11 am. starts during the week, so we could meet at my house after work. Sometimes, she would arrive there before me and have to wait a couple of minutes. If I had the early-out break, I could be home by seven and beat her there. Sometimes we would arrive at the same time.
Jane was a wonderful person. She was one of the people I was with the night I found God. Since that night, she always had a superlative interest in me.
Everyone from my dorm had moved back home for the summer, so Jane and I only had each other. The first thing we would do was smoke a bowl. Then we would hang out, listen to music, and rap about everything. She was very interested in my opinions and would ask me for my view on just about every subject. We would discuss topics ranging from music to current events to the different philosophers and their thoughts about certain matters. Then we would compare their ideas to ours. We would read books when not together and talk about them. It was the perfect way of unwinding after a day of listening to coins clang, buzzers ring, and gamblers yell.
One night Jane and I were sitting in my condo, getting high, and talking. My head was clouded with thoughts of the job. I was very upset as I sat on the couch with her, just starring into space. I couldn't get it out of my mind as I held back the tears.
Jane could sense something was wrong. "What's the matter," she asked.
"Nothing," I replied.
"Don't lie to me, I know you too well. Something is bothering you. What is it?"
"Nothing," I told her, "I'm just a little tired from work."
"You're not yourself tonight. Why don't you tell me what is wrong."
"I just can't."
"You trust me, don't you?"
I said yes.
"Than why don't you tell me what's bugging you?"
"I, I..." I began to stutter, "I can't."
"Sure you can." She took hold of my hands, "Sometimes it helps ease the pain when you tell your troubles to a friend you trust and who cares about you."
I burst out into tears and started crying. Jane's eyes opened wide in amazement. She had no idea the hurt was going to be so deep. I looked at her and said, "The dice games at work are fixed. They want me to steal from people." Immediately, I turned my head away in shame.
Jane gave me a hug that lasted at least five minutes. I kept crying as she held me in her arms trying to calm me down.
When I finally pulled myself together, we began to talk again. I told her it must have been the best kept secret in Atlantic City and asked her never to repeat it. She asked me to quit. I told her the predicament I was in and she understood. From that night on, I could never look at her again without remembering that night or knowing she was the only person who knew and understood the pain I had to live with.
It was earlier that day when I found out.
There was a supervisor I liked very much named Johnny Corbit. He was one of the best. He was a short guy who had a vain which stuck out of the middle of his receding hairline. This rendered him a sinister look that reminded me of drawings I had seen depicting Satan. He had a saying inside work whenever he was sitting Box or standing Floor; "Keep 'em a hoppin' and a poppin', no need a stoppin'." That was his contribution to the Cash Builder. The saying meant that he wanted the dice kept in the air. The logic being that the more rolls the table got, the better chance it had at making money. Outside of work he was cool. Even though he was in his forties, he still got high. Everyone in the joint did some kind of drug. The younger crowd mostly did cocaine, the older ones, mainly pot. If they were not doing that, they were drinking more booze than I could ever handle. That was a shock to me. I never thought anyone over the age of twenty-five got high but everyone did. It made me realize that not everyone in my father's generation was looking down at me as if I was committing the biggest crime in the world. Even people with families, like Johnny, got high. That day I was in pit 4a, dealing on Johnny's game, when something happened which would again change my life forever.
I was dealing on second base when I felt a pop under my feet. I looked around for the change cart but didn't see one. A roll or two later I felt another pop come up from the floor. I backed up and looked down at my feet. Johnny, who was standing floor, came up to me and asked if everything was all right.
"I felt a pop under my feet," I explained.
The pop had turned into a large bump under my feet. I conveyed my observation to Johnny.
He replied in a warm tone, "That's ok, itís supposed to be there. Just stand on it." When I did, the seven out rolled. Johnny, patted my shoulder and said, "See." He then went back to his original position as if it were no big deal.
I couldn't fathom what had just happened. Did I do that? I must have. I thought to myself, holy shit, this game is rigged. Everything I had been seeing and hearing was starting to make sense. But I had taken business law in college and knew if this were to be true then the crime being committed was "theft through deception". That is a crime categorized as fraud and fraud is a felony. I learned in high school that a felony was punishable by no less than five years in a prison. I didn't want to have anything to do with such a stunt. I shut up and did not ask any questions. Johnny never mentioned it again, that day or any other. I did my work and went home.
On the bus ride to the parking lot I did a lot of thinking and soul searching. I remembered reading, in the reference section of the Stockton library, a book on the rules and regulations by the Casino Control Commission, governing the casino industry. There was a law that stated that all slot machines had to payoff at least 88% of what they took in. It did not take a genius to figure out that in order for the machines to be able to do that they had to be rigged. So it was no big secret that the slot machines were fixed. I also knew that Bally Manufacturing was the largest supplier of slot machines in the country. I figured since they knew how to do it to the machines they built, they know how to do it to the dice as well. Then I accepted the fact that I was in a nest of crooks.
My newfound knowledge made me upset. I realized they wanted me to steal money from the people playing the game. How could I, as a person loving Christian, go against "Thou shalt not steal"? How could I do this to my fellow man? Then it came to light that everyone at the casino was doing just that and accepted it. They were now viewed as thieves and could no longer be trusted. I wanted to quit right then, but it dawned on me that I just locked into monetary commitments of which I could not back out. Before that day, I knew I didn't want to work with those people and saw finishing school as my only way out. I understood that carrying full-time credits would only permit me to work part-time. I was planning to work no more than 24 hours a week so I could devote my time to studying. At minimum wage that would only total $321.60 per month and that was before taxes. My only alternative was to stay there.
Another thought entered my mind as I became more and more upset. I thought, those poor people, they never had a fair chance at winning. I recalled the type of player who made a bet every roll only to give up after losing too much because it never won and how it would win the moment he stopped betting it. That poor sap must have had nightmares about it. And it was all for the amusement of those running the games. No wonder most of the bets made for the dealers would win. What a bunch of sickos I had to work with.
You could just imagine all I was thinking about. I was wishing I had taken blackjack instead of craps. There was no way that game could be rigged. Then I wished I had gone to another casino where this did not occur. How stupid I was. How naive I had been.
After the night I told Jane about it, and she had gone home, my feelings of sorrow turned into that of anger. The anger was that which I felt for my fellow man. It was bad enough that they were led to believe gambling was socially acceptable by the fact that there were racetracks, state lotteries, and casinos to help them destroy their lives. The fact of whether or not they were going to walk out winners was predetermined before they even walked into the casino was what pissed me off. I began to wonder if any of the other games were fixed. I figured the cards were impossible to fix but the big six wheel and the roulette wheel were not. Then I wondered if it was only Bally's Park Place who did this or if it was citywide. If it were citywide then that would mean Harrah's Marina did it as well. This would also have meant that the time Guido and I lost those seven spins in a row, that game was also fixed as I had thought and our money was stolen out from underneath us. I was getting very worked up thinking about it when my feelings of anger turned into that of fear.
Reality started to settle in as I realized Bally's was no mom and pop operation; it was major league. Millions of dollars a month, since they had opened, were literally being stolen from people all under the watchful eye of the Casino Control Commission and all with acceptance from the employees. Anyone who could pull such a feat would no doubt go though whatever it took to protect it. I became very scared wondering what all that meant for me.
My attitude had changed. First off, I was no longer interested in becoming the best dealer I could. Second, I realized everything I was being told about gangsters and the Mafia was for a reason. There was no doubt in my mind that everyone wanted me to realize that the business was controlled by the Mafia and that "The Boys" were a part of that. What I could not figure out was why anyone would help them steal millions of dollars if they were only getting paid between $25,000 and $35,000 a year. They would always say to me that every man had his price; well theirs was pretty cheap. How could they be that way? From that moment on I understood I was working with some dangerous people and would have to keep looking over my shoulder.
Bally's had what they called an "open door" policy. At any time a person could walk into the Shiftboss' or Casino Manager's office and discuss anything (and they would stress anything) with them. I thought, maybe that meant once you figured out what was going on you could go to them and they would pay you your price. That probably was what they meant, but no matter what, I did not want their tainted money.
Then the question of quitting once again entered my head. Could I just leave already knowing what I had learned? I knew too much and figured that since I was not seeking membership in "The Boys" club they would not trust me to quit on my own. I recalled them saying how once you worked for the Mafia you worked for them for life and I was not going to spend the rest of my existence with those assholes. I was getting very confused.
I had been working five days a week until the Labor Day holiday. The fall semester was to start, so I had to gladly cut back my working hours. Bally's Park Place offered their part-time dealers something the other casinos in town did not; we were allowed to write our own schedule. We were still bound to the rules of the house which stated that we (as day shift dealers) had to work every Saturday, Sunday, holiday, and be available one day out of the week. Only, we were allowed to choose what day that would be. It didn't get any better than that. Their system worked out excellently for us college students. I had it all figured out. I would go to school Monday through Thursday and work Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
One Friday evening in September I came home from work to a strange reception by my roommates and some friends. As soon as I walked through the door, Mark started taking my picture. Leif, Bob, Pete, and Jane were standing behind him giggling. Mark put down the camera and stuck his fist under my face like he was holding a microphone to interview me with. "This is Lou Levite," he started, "famous Atlantic City craps dealer. Tell us Mr. Levite, how was your day at work? Were there any big winners on your table today?"
I was not in a good mood. It was another shitty day of having my balls busted and watching people get ripped off. I waved my hands in front of me and said, as I tried to walk through them, "No, no, not now guys. I just want a bong hit. Where is the pot?" Mark kept pressing, but I just went into my room and got changed. As I walked by them, I could see Jane trying to act as interested as the rest so not to give anything away. It bothered me that my friends thought I had such a great job. If they only knew as Jane did.
I learned it was no easier being a blackjack dealer than it was being a craps dealer. There was a guy named Mike, who dealt blackjack and went to Stockton. He was a trip. He was a short, pudgy guy who was always telling jokes and laughing. He had the loudest mouth in the joint, which could be heard in the cafeteria from all the way down the hall. One afternoon I was sitting in the cafeteria with him and some other students when he started complaining about his game and how he was getting sick of the players. "I got this lady on my game," he said, "who wont leave me alone. She keeps saying, 'Come on dealer, give me a blackjack,' and when she doesn't get it, she blames me. She says, 'Aw, you're not a very nice dealer.'" Then he clinches his right fist and smacks it into his left palm while exclaiming, "Oh, how I'd love to punch her right in the face!"
I was confused. "Why would she say that if you have no control over the cards," I asked.
"Oh, are you in the dark." He gave that great laugh of his and continued, "Be glad you deal craps, you have no idea how good you have it. You don't get personally involved in the game. It's not like you're throwing the dice. They can't blame you if they loose." He laughed again, "You dumb shit. We're involved in every aspect of the game. We shuffle the cards and pull them out of the shoe. It's us they blame when they lose. They know we can shuffle the cards to help them out." He kept on chuckling.
It still sounded better than stepping on buttons to me. Wasn't that ironic? Each of us thinking the other had the better job.
It took me a while, but I finally figured out why those cronies liked their job and stealing from people. It was not because they could help out the toke rate by calling the dealer's bets, it wasn't even because they could influence the Cash Builder by having the dice fall against the player, it was because they could influence the dice to roll in favor of them.
There is a saying which goes: "A politician does not spend $10 million on an election, to win a $60,000 a year job, unless he plans to steal it back with interest." That is basically what went on in the casino. They agreed to do the job for such a small scale of pay because they were stealing it back from the house (or the player depending on how you looked at it). By that I do not mean they were taking cash or checks off the game. With the power to influence the dice they could have someone bet for them and that person would win. As long as the game did not lose any money, management would not complain. I believe, though, there was a certain amount that each supervisor or dealer had to make for the casino before they could take a cut for themselves. If their games would lose, or not win enough, heat would come down on them. But now I finally understood what everyone meant by, "If you have the chance to make an easy million dollars, you should take it."
Every day of having to put up with all that crap (no pun intended) made me sicker and sicker of the way we were treating one another. I saw us as all one being, with them just an extension of myself. I would see a loud beef going on and all I could think of was, "Why am I doing that to myself?" My faith in human kind began to deteriorate.
I had taken my final audition at the casino school, in a room, by myself, with Bobby Jones. After he told me I passed, he said, "I see no reason why you wont make a good dealer. Just keep your mouth shut and your nose clean and you'll be fine." I figured that was all I had to do and I would make it to graduation. Then I wondered what he really meant by that statement. I remembered what he said the first day of class about the dice not being fixed. How could he not only teach, but also encourage people to deal? The school even ran TV, radio, and newspaper ads acting like it was a legitimate business to get involved with. Those assholes! They turned my life into a living hell! I didn't know what to think. Then I wondered what was supposed to have really happened behind those closed doors my last day of dealing school. Was I not to have been so naive and asked Bobby what actually went down? Would he have told me the truth? Were his conversations with the other students different then the one with me?
It was a very rough semester. If I didn't have to be in school on a given day, I had to be at work. There was never a day off to myself. Because of that heavy load my grades started to fall and I ended up not finishing any of the classes. I realized that either school or work had to go. I was not particularly happy with what I was learning in school about the business world. By the same token, I did not like what I saw of the business world in reality. I was stuck between a rock and a hard place. Survival was more important. I figured I could work until something better came up or until I saved enough money to walk out of there. With all views taken into consideration, I filed for a leave of absence from Stockton State College, effective Spring, 1985.
Shortly after the semester ended, a high school friend, Rubin, came to my place for a visit. His high school sweetheart, Sarah, was working at the Newark Airport. Rubin was on winter break from college in Florida and wanted to see me. Sarah had not seen him in a while, so she drove down with a couple of friends to meet us.
The two had never been in a casino and asked if I could bring them to one. I was reluctant at first, but I figured, what the heck. There was one problem though; we were all under 21. We decided to take a gamble (no pun intended) anyway and try to get in. I heard Resort's International was easy to get into, so we went there. We were drinking earlier, so we arrived at the casino quite buzzed.
Everyone got in with no problem. We started splitting up; Sarah's friends went one way, Sarah went to play the slot machines, and Rubin and I walked around looking for a blackjack game for him to play on. We were not in there longer than five minutes when a very round female security guard approached us and asked me for I.D.
Rubin, who was going to be twenty in a week or two, but looked like he was twenty-four, slowly moved away so he would not be proofed. Thinking I would be slick, I pulled out my dealer's license and gave that to her.
She looked at the license and said to me in her black vernacular, "Sayz here, you ain't twenty-one."
"I know that," I replied trying not to fall over. Confident I was going to win my argument, I pointed at it and said with a slurred voice, "That's a CCC license."
She didn't care, "So what," she said. "You ain't twenty-one."
"I know that, but I paid almost $300 for the privilege to walk on this floor." Every one of those words was slurred. She could tell I was drunk.
"If you is a dealer, you ain't allowed to be gambling anyhow."
"I know that. I'm not gambling, I just brought my friend over there..." I turned and pointed to Rubin who was by now fifteen feet behind me, standing by the slot machines, watching what was going on from his safe distance, "...in here so he could."
"Eyes don't care. If you ain't twenty-one, you ain't allowed to be in here unless you work here--and you is hiiigh. Now, what door do you want to go out of?"
I looked down at the ground. Bringing my head up to her eye level I said with another slur, "The one I came in, I guess." She laughed and took me to the front door.
Shortly afterwards, my friends came out and we all went back to my place.
I couldn't accept what had happened. Eight months in the business and they would not let me walk into a casino. It didn't seem just.
That incident reminded me of a time, over the summer, when I was working and saw a guy twenty years of age get kicked out. His mother was mad about it and started a beef.
The Floor was trying to explain the state law to her. She was not happy. She pointed at me and said, "Yeah, sure, and how old are you? You look like your sixteen." That remark was fitting, but I told her I was nineteen. She didn't like hearing that. The lady turned back to the Floorperson and complained, "Sure, my kid is twenty and he gets thrown out." She points at me, "This kid is younger than him and he gets to see all this? It doesn't seem fair."
The Floor responded, "He is a dealer ma'am. You only need to be eighteen to be a dealer."
Wasn't that ironic. There I was, a nineteen year old, watching people older than myself get thrown out because the state said they were too young to be exposed to gambling. Something was not right.
From Christmas to New Year's, the casino was busy. I had to work six days that week, but did not mind because it gave me the extra money I would need to get out of the business. However, I did mind having to work on Christmas. I never did that before. There it was, one of the most Holiest of holidays, and I had to spend it going against every principal taught.
Christmas in the casino was no bed of roses. First of all, Bally's would book a singer named Sam Hun. He was said to be the Tom Jones of China. Then they would bus in 5,000 Chinese from China Town in New York City. The place was crawling with people who could not speak English. You could just imagine the fun that made for. Lucky for me most of them played blackjack. And if that was not enough to ruin your holiday, there were thousands of Jews from Long Island in there as well. Those people already had the snottiest attitudes towards dealers, but on Christmas, they would turn down right obnoxious. I was never prejudice, but that bunch, on that day, could get you to start disliking an ethnic group.
Everyone came to work in good spirits. Each person they passed they wished "Merry Christmas." I could not see what was so merry about it. I had a "Bah-Humbug" attitude from the onset. The friendliness was pleasant to begin with but it soon changed. After a couple of hours in the joint, people started getting disgusted.
Greedy gamblers were everywhere squandering their money. The long faces would start to appear and the Jews would tear into us. "What's the matter," they would say with that offensive Long Island, Jewish accent, "you don't look happy. You're supposed to like your job." They would act like it was any other day. It got to me. Every Christmas I would hear that comment or, "If you don't like your job, you should get a new one." How they loved to tease us for having to work.
Besides the Chinese and Jews being there on Christmas, the fleas were there as well. Most of them were down on their luck with no families. The only friends they had were each other. Whenever they recognized a familiar face, they would get all happy and go to spend time with them. It was kind of sad.
When January came, the weather and the business turned cold. Not many people were coming to the city. It was mostly local die-hard gamblers and bus people. Work slowed down so much that the part-time dealers were only getting two days of work. And we couldn't pick up days to work because the full-time dealers were cut back to four days a week, so they were reluctant to give any away. Being unable to pick up an extra day from them, and with only being given two days from the casino, it seemed that my plan to save money was about to backfire.
Matters worsened when I would be scheduled to work at 2 pm. every Sunday. Whenever anyone got that start it meant they would work for as ever long as the joint needed them.
Every Sunday, we would show up and they would tell us they were not going to open the pit because it was too slow and ask us if we wanted to go home. If I came through the snow to show up for work there was no way they were going to make me leave. I would stay and work a five-man crew. The other dealers would get angry because they said I was hurting the toke rate. (Remember, the more dealing hours, the less the toke rate.) Sometimes the casino would call my house around noon to tell me they were not opening the pit, so I need not bother coming in. I wasn't permitted to say no to that. They just told us that was the way it was.
A five-man crew was the most boring thing any dealer could go through. Rather than the standard four dealers to a crew, there were five. I would work twenty minutes on the stick, take a break, work forty minutes on the base, take a break, work twenty minutes on stick, take another break, work forty minutes on the other base, take a break, and repeat the entire process for eight hours. It made the day drag on forever. Sometimes it was worth going home rather than putting yourself through such torture. As soon as they mentioned that we were going to be stuck on a five-man crew, volunteers to go home were everywhere.
One evening I was watching the TV show Ripley's Believe It Or Not when I saw Jack Palance do a story about a pair of dice, made of real bone, Pyramid that were located in a 2000 year old Pyramid. When the archaeologists found the pair they also discovered that they were loaded to roll a seven every roll; "believe it or not." I believed it. It seems that gambling and loaded dice have been around for quite some time. (I was even taught in the ninth grade that Leo Tolstoy wrote War And Peace to cover a gambling debt.)
The more I worked at Bally's, the more I learned about the business. The more I learned about the business, the more I began to dislike the society I lived in. I still had not concluded if this sort of thing was only happening at Bally's Park Place, or if it was citywide.
I started asking questions to dealers who I knew worked at other houses. I asked what is was like working for them and always got the same answers; "They are all the same," or "Same shit, different place." It seemed that no matter what casino in or out of the country you worked for, the same art of deception was practiced. That pissed me off because now I knew I was ripped off at Harrah's Marina. But the answers also got me thinking about the Casino Control Commission.
When gambling passed in New Jersey, the state set up a system to keep organized crime out of Atlantic City. This was the Casino Control Commission. After filling out their 30-page application for a casino license, I was left with no doubt that the governor of New Jersey was doing his best to keep out the gangsters. That obviously was not happening. It seemed to me that the state must have been in on it as well.
One day I was standing on a dead game when a CCC agent, holding a strange looking contraption in his hand, approached us. He asked to see one of the dice. The supervisors were more than willing to oblige. They always were. The agent took the die, put it between two metal arms on the device, and read some kind of meter. I went into a panic and thought to myself they were for sure going to find out the dice were fixed. I didn't know what to expect. He took it out and asked to see the rest. I began to worry more. After doing the same with each of those, he gave them all back to the Boxperson.
The crew started joking with the agent, "No fixed dice hear, eh?"
"No, we're just doing a routine check."
Then the Floor got bold and asked, "Are you sure you're using that thing right?" I couldn't believe he said that. The crew chuckled. The agent just smiled, gave a laugh, and walked away.
I didn't know what to make of it. I thought, either the Commission was also in on it and they were just going through the motions to make it appear that they were doing their job, or the dice are so well fixed that the machine the agent had could not detect it. Whichever it was, I never saw an agent do that again.
I knew those dice were crooked because for amusement I had by then, on my own, learned how to stand to call a seven out at will and had just done it to kill the game. Later on we used the same dice on that game and they were falling at my command.
There were always government agencies doing different investigations in the casinos. The Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) was a branch of the New Jersey State Police, but they never did anything about the corruption. The FBI recorded many gangsters over the years, but if they mentioned anything about the games being rigged it never was taken care of. And other law enforcement agencies would run investigations on the employees while under cover as dealers. Even those people never took the steps to put an end to it.
Why was that? Could it be that it was because all the people who fought for gambling and who patrol it allow them to stay in business through the use of extortion? Face it; most people would rather take a cut than do what they are paid to do.
I was convinced the Casino Control Commission was definitely part of what was going on in the casinos. How could they not be? The entire joint was filled with gangsters. And those bumps on the floor were not just put there by incompetent carpet layers. They too must have been Mafia. I was starting to wonder how the hell I even got the job in the first place.
The casinos were right however; they could just let anyone in.
I knew people who left the business to go into law enforcement. Now, one of three things was going on there; either those people were 100% Mafia and were being placed into those organizations to further help the mob, or they were so scared of what might happen to them if they did anything about it that they were going to pretend that the casinos were legit, or they were receiving a cut to keep quiet.
Case in point: Carl had been a part-time craps dealer who was also a full-time cop for the Pleasantville Police. He started working at Bally's as a scab during their dealer's strike back in the early eighties. After the strike, he stayed on working weekends. Here was a man, an officer of the law sworn to uphold it, actively participating in a major felony. None-the-less, Bally's did not seem to mind that there was a cop working for them who knew of the operation. Carl was either a crooked cop taking kickbacks and giving out important information to the mob about police investigations, or he was one of the weakest minded sheep around. Either way, I had no respect for him.
It seemed the casino industry understood something about human nature; people can be intimidated by fear to follow the crowd and keep their mouth shut no matter how strongly against it they felt. What did they care as long as they were being fed. Pure Machiavellian. But I know of a lot of honest hard working people who left that job to take a lesser paying but more honorable one. I also know of many ethical people who continue to work in the business because they feel they have no choice. I am sure those are the people who respect what it is I am doing here.
After finding out that I worked for the Mafia, I began to keep my eyes out for who they might be.
It took me a while, but I finally learned what the PC was. And it was no big secret either. The PC stood for the "percentage changed". That was how the casinos kept track of how efficiently they were winning. For instance, let us say that they were looking at a particular pit. Say pit 3a had a drop of $100,000 for the shift. That meant gamblers bought $100,000 worth of gaming checks. Six percent (today it is 7%) of that went immediately to state sales tax. (Don't forget, we were selling gaming checks for the purpose of entertainment.) If the total amount of checks left on the games at the end of the shift was $70,000 less than what it started with, that meant $100,000 were taken off by gamblers, but $30,000 was recovered, giving the pit the $70,000 difference from what they started with. That translated to a $30,000 win for the house or 30% of the drop. Subtract the 6% state sales tax and the PC for the pit was 24%. I don't know what was considered a high or low PC, but you better believe that if it fell below zero that meant the house lost money and the heat would come down.
Heat came down in the form of intimidation. House rules and regulations were enforced until the employees won more money for them. During that time the life of every employee was made a living hell. The owner would tell the Casino Manager that if he or she did not bring up the PC they would be in trouble. The Casino Manager would then tell the Shiftbosses if they don't raise the PC he or she would come down on them. The Shiftbosses would tell the Pitbosses the same, and the Pitbosses would come down on everybody. Then, dealers would get written up for something as trivial as asking their buddy, while on a live game, if they wanted to go out for a drink after work. The only way to get the heat to let up was to raise the PC. (I sure felt sorry for those gamblers who walked in after it had been determined that the PC was too low.) The dealers would do what it took to be able to breathe a little easier.
What I just described above was an example of the chain of command. The casinos were regimented like the military. At the bottom were the dealers (privates). Next were the duel/rate dealer/boxpersons (PFC), the Boxpersons (corporals), and the Floorpersons (sergeants). Next came the officers: Pitbosses (lieutenants), then Duel/Rate Pit/Shiftbosses (captains), then the Shiftbosses (majors), then the Assistant Casino Manager (colonel), and finally the Casino Manager (general)--these, of course, all having to answer to the owner or...God himself. That chain of command had to be followed at all times. If a dealer had a problem with the Boxperson and he went to the Pitboss and not the Floorperson, that was a break in the chain of command and the dealer would usually get "chewed out" for doing that and may not even get his problem taken care of.
Getting a promotion in the casino wasn't as simple as just doing a good job and you'll be noticed. None of the people in those positions got there because they were liked by everyone; they got there because they were hated by them. That was not always the case though. If a person was nice, but showed their willingness to kiss ass and steal as much money for the house as possible, they might get promoted.
The Pitbosses were the lieutenants in the field, taking orders from his or her captain or major. They had to show an ability to get their grunts to perform. If they could not, their job would be in jeopardy. A nice Pitboss, who was liked, could get sympathy from their pit and they would perform for him. The mean Pitboss on the other hand was more effective. This was the person who got there not only because they showed a willingness to steal as much for the house as they could, but also because they used their power to write up those below them. Write-ups could lead to a person being fired, so if that person (and I use the term loosely) could show they had no sympathy towards people losing their jobs and was willing to help upper management get rid of "undesirables", then they usually got the promotion. These were Box and Floorpersons looking to become Pitbosses and Pitbosses looking to become upper management. At Bally's, upper management were people like John Daily, Issy Falcon, or David Chan, who at last report is working for Merv Griffin.
I remember another bad Pitboss with whom I had a slight "to do". They called him Bounce. One morning I was sent to his pit to replace a dealer. When I arrived at his pit stand, he started going off on me, "Oh, no, not you. Why did they have to send me you? God dam it! Why couldn't they have sent me a real dealer? Who sent you? Jesus Christ! Whenever the table is full of right betters you start singing and calling dukes and the only time you're ever cold on stick is if the table is filled with wrong players. You're no asset to this company, you're a goddamn liability."
After that sermon I felt low. He had just made it obvious to everyone that the casino did not like me because I was unwilling to learn how to win for them and that hurt. I never saw Bounce after that morning and I always wondered if that was why. Blatant public displays of the games being rigged were never tolerated by upper management.
Willingness to steal or be a crony were not the only criteria for advancement, the casinos had a certain type of mind frame they went after as well. There were three other things they looked at which I found in each joint I worked for. These were: marital status, sexual preference, and police record. They liked people who were married and had families because they knew those people were more willing to do anything (including committing an immoral felony) to provide for them. They would be less inclined to step out of line. This contradicted other forms of big business that like to promote single people because they would be more willing to relocate and did not have a spouse with a job or a family which required their attention outside of work. In the second group, they liked to promote homosexuals because they thought it took a warped mind to be gay. They figured that anyone with a mind that perverted would definitely be willing to do a job as twisted as that. Those guys and gals were the worst to work for. They always felt they had something to prove. In the last category, police record, they liked people who have proven their willingness to break the law. This also contradicts the other forms of big business that would rather stay away from criminals and hire people they could trust. Unless you fell into one of these categories, getting to the top took kissing ass, putting on the kneepads, playing ball, or paying off the right people.
The casinos had one other method for promotion called Affirmative Action. When gaming was thrown together in the state of New Jersey, a system was set up to favor the minority population of Atlantic City, which at the time was 54%. It was no big secret in the business that white males were at the bottom of the list when it came to promotions. The casino had a quota they had to fill with a certain number of women and minorities. If a white male was a better employee at doing his job anywhere in the hotel or casino he would, at any rate, be passed over if the quota had not been reached.
That law was ridiculous to still have on the books because it was originally designed to help advance people who were discriminated against before civil rights. It was to give those people credit for time they would have had if they were not denied the job in the first place. For example, if a black man was not allowed to join a town fire department because of a law they had prohibiting it until equal rights were passed, and he finally was able to join for the first time when he was 35 years of age, then he was given credit for the time he would have had in had he not been refused. It is feeble-minded to today promote a 25-year-old incompetent black woman over a very competent white male just because she is a woman or black or both. This only leads to less qualified workers being placed in high level jobs and helps to promote reverse discrimination.
One [another] problem I noticed other than the corrupt employees was that there would be no gaming industry if it were not for the millions of greedy people who create the demand for them to stay in business. At the time I started dealing there were nine casinos with a tenth (Harrah's At Trump Plaza) just opening. Those casinos made a combined $1.7 billion a year at that time; about the same, if not more, as the over 150 casinos in the state of Nevada. (Even though the New Jersey casino industry might report a $2.1 billion profit today, the drop might be $10 billion of which they give back $7 billion to the gamblers, give $1 billion to The Boys, and report the other $2 billion as net profit.) The reason for that was that Las Vegas and Nevada were in the middle of a desert with nothing around. Atlantic City had the advantage of having over 45 million people within a tank-fullís ride of the city. To the south was Baltimore and Washington D.C., to the west was Philadelphia and Harrisburg, and to the north was New York City with all of their suburbs in between. There was no refusing that "The Boys" did not have that in mind when they looked for a place to expand their operations. They came from everywhere and by every means. There was certainly no shortage of saps.
The most popular way of arriving in Atlantic City was by bus. Bus people were the worst. They were mostly old ladies and retired couples going to do my definition of gambling, which is "the squandering of ones hard earned money." You could always tell the bus patrons from the other gamblers. Those were the guys always looking at their watches or constantly asking you what time it was. I have even seen a few of them wait to the last second to run for the bus. They would take down all their non-contract bets and gather up all their checks against their potbellies as they dashed for the door. It was quite funny and extremely sick at the same time. During the winter months, though, those people were Atlantic City's lifeline.
There was one thing I never realized while working my first summer at Bally's Park Place; that a Saturday in the winter could be as busy as a Saturday in the summer.
I was finally able to merit the knowledge that not everyone who went to Atlantic City was on vacation and there to have a good time. You couldn't find anyone on the beach or walking the Boardwalk playing games and riding the amusements past the Miss. America Pageant. From that time until Memorial Day people came to the city for one thing and one thing only; to gamble.
During the winter the casinos were filled with some of the most miserable human beings on the planet. Those were the die-hard gamblers. They were the people who had been going to Atlantic City for years and never saw the Atlantic Ocean. Never once took the time out from their greed to admire the beauty of the waves curling over the shore. Never once took the time out to listen to the sounds of those same waves as it soothed the ear, calling out from creation. Never once took the time to sit on the beach, look at the waves, hear their call, and watch the sun rise over the ocean as it brightened the morning into day; filling the body with warmth as it showed the magnificent splendor created by God. Oh so little gained from those people.
Die-hard gamblers could be as obnoxious as the rich show-off. He may or may not have had money, but he did have one thing, experience.
They liked to say things such as, "Don't tell me how to play! I've been playing this game since before you were born," which to me translated to, "Leave me alone! I've been an asshole longer than you have been on the planet!" It was just a matter of semantics. Other guys liked to show you their knowledge of the business.
One afternoon I was dealing on the last game in pit 4b, only this time I was on the one directly behind the table I was on July 4. We were facing pit 3b, a blackjack pit. I was on third base, which put me on the corner of the pit along side the same hallway from the lobby to the Boardwalk. There was a player getting friendly with me and asking me how I liked my job.
He was telling me how he knew I did not get paid anything from the casino and how I had to work for tips. At first I thought he was trying to recruit me for an illegal casino in New York City. Bobby Jones said that could happen. Then the player started telling me how the Floormen had it made with all the money the casino paid them. "That's not the only benefit to that job," he said to me, "the players take care of them as well." I just looked at him with a "what the hell are you getting at" look. "Sure, they'll ask them 'what's your shirt size, what lengths are your sleeves' and then they give them a new tailored shirt. Those guys take care of the players and the players take care of them. They're always getting gifts from them." I thought to myself, why is this guy telling me this? I began to wonder if he was some shill the casino put on me to try to spark my interest in wanting to stay and join them. Maybe they thought I might be persuaded if I knew not only could I make a good paycheck, but get many gifts from the gamblers as well. Maybe he was just babbling. Either way, I wasn't buying. I thought he was an asshole and ignored him until he left.
One more subject those guys liked to show you they knew about the business was how the dealer could control the game. They would say things like, "Come on now dealer, step on that button and we'll all win." Most of those guys either knew it to be fact, did not know it and was only joking, or did not know it to be fact but always suspected it. Either way, no one ever took them seriously. There was one guy, however, I took to heart.
I was dealing in pit 3a when a very old and slow moving gentleman walked up to the game and stood in front of me. He reminded me of George Burns in the movie "Going In Style". He had the cigar, the glasses, the slow voice. The Floorperson knew him and gave him a warm greeting. The man looked at the Floorperson, who was Dennis, and said, "These boys aren't going to take my money, are they?" The Floor, looked back at him and said he would see what we could do.
After a while, the dice started going against him. "Oh boy," he said, "Did you see that?" Then on the next seven out, he pointed to me and said, "Did you see that?" He turned, pointed at the dice, and said as he looked back at me, "The stickman stepped on that button and just took my money without a gun. It's a crime I tell ya. Did you see the way he did that? He stole my money and all without a gun. That's what they do in here, you know."
Now what was going on? The casino must have told that guy to say those things to me. Ever since that day on Corbit's game I have tried to pretend it never happened. I think by this time they were starting to wonder why I never asked any questions. They clearly wanted me to. The man just lifted up his arms, waved down his wrists, and said to Dennis, "I think I'm going to find another table, these guys are too tough for me." He walked away and I never saw him again.