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December 22, 2014

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Confessions of a casino host: Tales of high rollers, comps and hookers

Free nightclub passes with a free bottle of Cristal at a free booth.

Free steak dinners. Free strippers.

When high rollers come to Las Vegas, they expect to be treated like royalty, to spend a weekend living out a hip-hop video — all comped, and all in exchange for laying down bets.

And they expect these perks to be delivered by one person in particular: their casino host.

Hosts have a job that in theory would be cushy — selling dreams of casino action to people who don’t really need much arm-twisting, and giving them free stuff for betting big.

Job postings talk vaguely about their need to build a “proactive relationship” with customers, fix “any problem or perceived guest inconvenience,” maintain “close ties with targeted guests” and provide “complimentaries ... in accordance with program qualifications.”

What these ads don’t say is that the job, in the eyes of one local host, can involve baby-sitting compulsive gamblers who threaten, curse, cheat and sometimes get violent.

The host spoke on condition of anonymity to offer a firsthand account of both the gamblers who pump our casinos full of cash and the staffers who decide which goodies they get for helping keep the economy afloat.

Chasing the losses.

My biggest client comes three or four times a year, though it’s been more lately because she’s been losing a lot. She used to start out losing $100,000, $150,000 each time she came in. Now it’s progressed upward.

People don’t really tip that much.

I tend to get a lot of food, candy, cards and cakes as tips. If they lose at gambling, it’s in the back of their minds — “Oh my God, I gave this guy some money.”

I’ve actually had someone ask me for their tip back. It was $200, something like that. It didn’t surprise me.

I’ve seen people throw temper tantrums, throw stuff, scream at us.

A customer threatened to murder me once. I feel bad for dealers, though, because they have to sit there and take it. I have the freedom to walk away if I don’t want to deal with someone.

I’ve seen people throw cards at dealers, flick cigarettes at them, blow smoke in their face; I’ve seen people take change out of their pockets and throw it at them. People have thrown chairs; I’ve seen a shift manager get punched; I’ve seen glass coffee mugs thrown across the high-limit room; I’ve seen people try to flip the table and fight security.

A lot of times, we don’t get the worst end of it as hosts, or we just get it over the phone. A lot of customers won’t do it face to face because they’re cowards and they know that if they piss us off, we won’t deal with them.

I’ve seen a host call players and scream at them for not gambling when they get comped. If we cut them off, they’re afraid we’ll tell somebody else about them; they know we all talk, they know we do research on players.

Believe it or not, there’s not a lot of illegal stuff going on ...

A lot of people think, oh, hookers and coke. I think in my whole time doing this I’ve gotten requests for coke twice. Also, hookers aren’t hard to find. They’re always in the casinos; they’re always hanging out by the slots, especially by the clubs. A lot of them gamble, too. A few of my best customers are prostitutes. They try to hide it, which is hilarious. One comes here every other week, and she’s clearly — it’s not even a question.

The way I was trained is that you give comps to customers ...

who are going to put the time in gambling, even if they don’t have strong average bets. A lot of hosts look at credit lines, but that can be deceiving. A lot of times, people open up big credit lines to make it look like they’re high rollers so they can get a free suite, but they don’t play up to it at all — they get a $50,000 credit line but only play $100 a hand.

They’re not all bad; there are some really nice, good people who like gambling, they have the money, they understand there’s winning and losing. When you hear a “Thank you,” that’s, like, wow.

We talk about customers’ sense of entitlement all the time

I wonder where it comes from, because it never used to be like that. Casino hosts used to be untouchable; a host had the cush job that everyone wanted. There was no calling up and harassing the hosts.

Our host-line, the calls we get sometimes, I just stare at the phone and ask why. People demand comps, or they use it as the complaint department. I had a guy who ate at our casino and said he got food poisoning three weeks earlier, and what was I going to do for him? I don’t know what he was looking for; I have no control over what he eats. I told him he had to talk to the manager of the restaurant.

Tourists want to go home and say they got this or that ...

They got the whole night comped, blah blah blah, or there are local casinos back home that comp them all the time. They might be a big shot there; they spend $1,000 a week and get everything they want, but they come here and have a false sense of illusion of what they will get. Also, it’s a younger crowd in Vegas. People come for the nightclubs and DJs. They gamble less. They lose $200 and then want to know what we’ll comp them.

You see people lose and their whole mentality changes

You see someone smiling and laughing, tipping the dealers — they’re up $6,000 and everything’s great. But then they lose one hand and all of a sudden they’re down. Now they’re slamming the table. One card can make or break someone’s whole demeanor.

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