The Role of a Toke Committee in Casinos: How Dealers Get Paid

Recently, I talked about tokes, or tips, and max toke limits as well as all the rules associated with tokes. The one thing I didn’t talk about was how in the heck you even cash out your tokes. It’s not like you can take a chip and pay for groceries or rent. So how do you turn your chips into cash?

What is a Toke Committee

That’s where the toke committee comes in. A toke committee is a group of dealers who are democratically elected to collect, sort, and count the tips, as well as complete all the associated paperwork necessary to get dealers paid. Basically, the toke committee is responsible for getting you your hard-earned money.

Toke committee rules and bylaws are different from casino to casino, so I’ll be talking a bit more generally about them.

Toke committees can have anywhere between five and eight members and they come in on their own time to work, as in, they are not on the clock. Dealers still get paid for their work, but that money is taken from the toke pool and is not paid by the casino. Depending on the casino, it’ll only be dealers who work Swing and Graveyard shifts, while other casinos will have a toke committee for all three shifts: swing, graveyard, and day. But casinos make their own rules on who can be on a toke committee.

For instance, one casino in New Mexico has two Day Shift dealers and four Swing Shift dealers on their toke committee. It’s up to the casino to decide what shifts of workers they allow on the committee, but it’s up to the dealers to ultimately vote on the individuals they want to serve.

Regional Differences

So while these toke committee members are coming in off the clock, they are paid a pre-determined amount that comes out of the toke pool for the night. When I was a toke committee member in Vegas in the early 2000’s, I was paid thirty-five dollars per night in cash. Other casinos may pay their committees an extra hour of tokes, whatever the toke rate was that night. A casino in New York pays their committee twenty-five dollars which is included in their paychecks, while a different New York casino pays just three to five extra hours per week.

Like I said, it all depends on what casino you’re at, and all of this is determined by the toke committee bylaws. The bylaws can say how many committee members there are, how much they’re paid, their term length, and alllllll the rules for what and how dealers are paid. It’s really, really, really important that you know what your bylaws are at your casino because you, the dealer, will vote on them! (I did say it was democratic!) A toke committee with good bylaws will run like a well-oiled machine and protect their dealers, while a toke committee with bad bylaws could make working there a nightmare for all dealers involved.

For example, there’s a casino in Ohio where the toke committee voted on a bylaw stating that the vacation time was not to be included in the dealer’s hours for determining toke rate. What this means, is that when these dealers went on vacation, they received their base hourly wage only, and didn’t receive any tips which are the bulk of a dealer’s pay. Obviously this bylaw wasn’t written with the dealer’s best interests in mind. So pay attention to your toke committee’s bylaws so you’re not getting screwed out of money!

Not Every Casino Has a Toke Committee

And here’s the other thing: not every casino has a toke committee either. One Indian casino near the U.S.-Canadian border relies on the casino to collect and equally divide the dealers’ tokes. These dealers have to trust the casino for the numbers to be accurate, which is very scary. Would you trust your house? I’m just saying.

Anyway! Toke committees are really, really important!

What Does a Toke Comittee Do

Now that we know what a toke committee is, what exactly does a toke committee do?

At random times throughout their shift or when the toke boxes are full, dealers will walk around, picking up toke boxes and carrying them to a large lockbox before dumping all the chips into the box. That’s right, all the tips go into a big pot. Well, more like medium pots. Then, every 24 hours, usually Graveyard hours, so like, 4:00 A.M., the toke committee members will go around and collect these lockboxes with the help of Security, bring all the lockboxes up to a designated room, and dumping all the chips on the table. This is the big pot!

This designated room, of course, is designated for a reason. They’re designed in a way where the toke committee can be observed, and I don’t just mean cameras watching you. So like, the toke committee room I worked in had a unique door where half the door came up to about waist high and was fully closed and locked while the other half was wide open so anyone could walk by and see how the count was going. Other casinos I worked at had a window on the door so anyone could watch the process. Some casinos don’t have a designated room but maybe a Craps table with a camera watching them. All of this is to ensure the count is done properly and no one’s stealing your tokes.

Once the toke committee has dumped all the tokes collected for the day onto the table, it’s time to muck. Mucking, for those not in the know, is a term used to describe a certain way dealers pick up chips and shouldn’t be confused with hand mucking, which is a term used to describe a certain cheating maneuver that involves switching cards.

Toke committee members are excellent muckers because they can usually muck chips faster than anyone else, which makes sense since they’re doing it so much. When I was on the toke committee, sometimes we’d have a mucking race to see who was the fastest mucker. The one with the most racks and least mistakes would win. Roulette dealers have a lot of mucking experience too because that’s where you have to muck a large quantity of chips to the point where when it’s especially busy a second dealer will be placed on roulette with you just to help muck the chips.

Back to the toke committee. So, the dealers will sit around a large table with a massive pile of different denominations of cheques. Mucking the chips as fast as they can, focusing on one color at a time and instinctively knowing when they hit 20, the dealers will then place those cheques in a rack of 5. They’ll repeat that over and over until all the chips have been sorted and placed. Once that’s done, each dealer will individually count the money, then switch to check each other’s counts. The count has to be accurate and right. It’s very important.

Next, one of the senior toke committee members will do the absolute, number one, top-most important job of all: filling out the paperwork. This paperwork isn’t just writing down the final tally number and calling it a day. This senior dealer has to figure out how much everyone is getting paid, who is getting vacation time, PTO, sick time, plus, if accounting made a mistake and didn’t pay a dealer, it’s the senior dealer’s job to make sure there are funds allocated to make up for that missing pay. And they have to do this for about 300 dealers in a 24-hour period, so there’s a lot involved. So you want this senior dealer to be reliable, honest, and great with numbers. You are trusting this person with your money and your precious vacation time!

While they take care of the numbers, the other toke committee members take the racks and put them in a locked container, which could be a rolling lockbox or a large locked carrying bag. Once the paperwork is done, the dealers and a security guard will take the paperwork and the racks of chips to a specific part of the cage. After everything’s in the cage, the amount of money is double-checked by the cage cashier and then those numbers are cross-referenced with the numbers on the paperwork submitted by the senior dealer. We are double, triple, and quadruple-checking these numbers, people!

After the numbers are verified and confirmed, everything’s written in a specific binder in the cage and that binder is submitted to accounting for processing. All of this—absolutely all of this!!!—takes an hour to complete. Sometimes it can take a little longer if your casino hands out cash envelopes because you have to stuff them yourselves, and the senior dealer usually needs a little longer to do the paperwork, but yeah. An hour. For reference, it took me longer to write this article than it takes a toke committee to do all of its work. Rock stars, all of them.

Once accounting processes everything, the toke amounts and corresponding paperwork with all the numbers are posted for everyone to see. Check out our World Toke Board on our homepage to see what dealers take home at different casinos around the world.

Standards Can Differ

All of what I’ve said is about standard for a casino and how the toke committee works obviously depends on each individual casino. So like, for example, the toke committee at one Rhode Island casino will collect the tokes throughout the day when it’s slow, then they’ll do their final count at 2:00 A.M. And just like Vegas, their toke day starts and ends at 4:00 A.M. But unlike Vegas, anyone can sign up to count and verify tokes. If no one signs up, management forces the newer dealers to do it. Anyone who helps gets paid for their efforts, which is good.

It’s the same with a New York casino where anyone can count, but only the toke committee can do the paperwork. It’s not standard across the state because a different New York casino is actually structured more similarly to Vegas casinos.

In Maryland, there’s a casino with no toke committee at all. At the end of the night, two dealers go around collecting all the tokes and dump them into a pile on a craps table where they’ll muck and sort the chips while an Eye-in-the-Sky camera watches them. Once the chips are sorted and racked, they pass the cheques off to a different department for processing. This usually only takes about fifteen minutes but they’ll get paid for a full hour.

And the process is different in different countries, too. In Lisbon, Portugal, toke committee members are elected annually and they’re in charge of all the administrative paperwork to pay dealers. Casinos are only open for twelve hours a day so at the end of the day, a designated group will go around, empty the toke boxes, et cetera, et cetera. That processes is the same.

But they have some big differences. First off, the responsibility rotates from dealer to dealer on every shift, and they practice what is called a Zone Split. This involves the other casinos in that zone and coordinate for correct numbers. Then the corresponding amount is transferred to a bank account from which the dealers are paid. It’s managed by the casino and the toke committee.

They also calculate their total pool amount for the past month on the first of the month. After all the numbers have been calculated, they’ll remove the fixed amount out of the entire pool for the month. This money will pay the toke committee and for any expenses, like pens and paper, as well as the mandatory twelve per cent contribution to social security. Once all that’s taken out, they calculate how much is owed to each person, all while taking rank and absences into account.

In the U.K., they use a common tronc system which is the same system bars and restaurants use. A tronc system or tronc scheme is used to distribute tips from customers to hospitality workers. So government taxes and service fees are taken directly from the fund. “Tronc” comes from the French phrase “tronc des pauvres”, or “poor box”. In casinos today, it’s a common box located either on the casino table or somewhere in the club that dealers put their tips in. Then dealers will go around the casino every day, opening these boxes, and counting the tips inside. It’s all then written down along with the table number and the department.

If you couldn’t tell by now, being a toke committee member takes a lot of trust on behalf of your fellow dealers. They are trusting you to get them paid fairly and accurately. You want your toke committee members to be trustworthy, reliable, and dependable. It’s not a job to be taken lightly.

What Happens in Case of Theft

You’re probably wondering though: what happens if a toke committee member steals tokes while mucking? I wish I could say it’s rare, but it’s not uncommon. Actually, I’ve seen it first-hand at a casino I worked at. This was like, early 2000s and I was dealing pai-gow poker when a co-worker of mine flew past me running as fast as he could, throwing something in the trash as he turned the corner. There were five security guards sprinting after him and they caught him and called the police.

Here’s the thing: they caught him on camera in the toke room palming several black chips and slipping them in his pocket. That’s what the security guards found in the trash, several black chips.

Oh man, the audacity of that dealer. He had been working as a dealer for twenty years and ten of them on the toke committee where he had been stealing chips on a regular basis. He had stolen so much money over the years that he could retire comfortably for the rest of his life. They had only caught him because they had just installed those cameras in the toke room.

Being on a toke committee requires a lot, a LOT of trust from your fellow dealers. If you’re thinking about maybe one day joining your toke committee, I have two major, major tips. One, be reliable, dependable, honest, and trustworthy. The other dealers are relying on you to get paid properly. And two, be very, very good at mucking.

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