High rollers: Dealers describe special treatment, abuse
Uncasville, Conn. — One high roller requests a refrigerator full of bananas that he squeezes and throws as he gambles. Another urinates against a wall. Other high-stakes players described by a pit manager at Mohegan Sun, one of the world’s largest casinos, throw chairs, scream at dealers and expect rules to be bent at the tables.
In the increasing competition for the biggest spenders, casinos are known to pull out all the stops with comped hotel rooms, meals and rebates for a percentage of their losses. But some dealers say efforts to satisfy and retain the players — known as “whales” — go much further, with casinos tolerating abuse and extending courtesies that test the integrity of the games.
“All men are created equal except in the casino,” said Glen Costales, the pit manager, in a recent hearing before the tribal gaming commission. “If it’s a premium player, he gets away with a lot more than the five-dollar player would get away with.”
Costales was testifying in support of a pit boss, Maria DeGiacomo, who was fired this year after the casino accused her of helping a high roller cheat by allowing late bets at a blackjack table. DeGiacomo and other employees say dealers frequently grant similar requests from top players.
The player, golf professional Matthew Menchetti, was a regular who lost about $50,000 to Mohegan Sun on each visit, and a total of more than $1 million last year alone. Casino security flagged his play as suspicious in February and asked state police to arrest him and two dealers, but the detective concluded DeGiacomo and another dealer apparently took it upon themselves to allow rule violations to keep Menchetti happy and playing, according to a police report, and no charges were filed.
Mohegan Sun’s president, Raymond Pineault, said its termination of the dealers involved and its ejection of Menchetti demonstrate it does not tolerate any bending of the rules.
Shane Kaufmann, a vice president for a branch of the Transport Workers Union in Las Vegas, which represents several thousand casino dealers, said rules are frequently ignored at high-stakes tables.
“The casinos pretend they have rules that are set in stone, like going into a bank or dealing with a police station. Are they supposed to allow late bets? Absolutely not. Do they do it all the time? All the time,” said Kaufmann, a dealer who sees plenty of crude behavior himself. “The abuse, the screaming, the cheating, the sexual harassment. Throwing things around. It’s worse all the time.”
Gaming commissions enforce the rules at casinos across the country, but the level of scrutiny can vary by jurisdiction. Dealers say state inspectors in Atlantic City, New Jersey, for one, have a reputation for toughness. In Connecticut, the state does not have any oversight of table games at Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods, where the tribes that own the casinos also control their own gaming commissions.
Costales, who described the banana squeezer and public urinator without revealing their names in his testimony, said such outrageous behavior is tolerated more these days because of growing competition than when he joined the business three decades ago.
In Menchetti’s case, he told the gaming commission that in most cases when he said he’d forgotten to post a bet, DeGiacomo and others made accommodations. He said the intention was never to steal — at most, it prolonged his stay at the table — but he expected special treatment, given his level of play.
“It’s no different in my mind than me calling my host and asking him for an extra 2,500 points on my account so I can go purchase something at a Lux, Bond & Green,” he said, referring to a jewelry store.
Menchetti said in an interview with The Associated Press he was puzzled over why he was ejected and believes he was used by a casino manager who wanted a reason to fire DeGiacomo. DeGiacomo said she concluded that Menchetti had fallen out of favor with casino management.
DeGiacomo, who is still fighting her dismissal, said rules shifted depending on the player and pit bosses were encouraged to keep high rollers happy. She testified during her hearing: “I have to make sure that we get our money, which we did, every time he played. There’s maybe two times he won.”
As part of the state police investigation, the detective interviewed several dealers who said Menchetti would often hit the table, curse and scream at them. They told the detective that in cases where he or other high rollers asked to post a late bet or for other considerations, they would defer to a superior.