Riviera chaplain soothes souls
in Sin City

Apr 5, 2005 8:15 AM

GamingToday debuts a new feature, Odd Casino Jobs, which focuses on strange or unusual jobs in Las Vegas casinos.

One of the most unique job titles in town, especially considering the "town" is Sin City, is "staff chaplain" at the Riviera. The titleholder is Charles M. Bolin, who is also known as "Charlie Chaplain."

The genesis of his position was a lengthy labor of love. "That’s a book I’m gonna write," Bolin says. "It was a long process."

Bolin adds that the name of the book will be, "The Collar in the Casino," an idea he got from friend Eddie Cole, Natalie Cole’s cousin and conductor. But it may be awhile before the book goes to print; he’s currently working on his PhD in health psychology.

Bolin’s Strip ministry, which includes Bible study backstage with cast and crew and counseling to casino employees and hotel guests, was hatched 12 years ago.

In 1993, Bolin says, the Riviera thought it would like to have a chaplain inside the casino.

"They weren’t sure if this was going to work, and for a year and three months I worked with no salary," Bolin recalls. Finally, in January of 1995, he was rewarded with the title of staff chaplain and a salary.

Since then Bolin’s days have been filled with a myriad of responsibilities.

"I don’t know that I have a typical day," he says. "I see many employees, and I’m visible."

Because he often responds to emergencies, Bolin is on call 24 hours a day.

"You can’t do this job and not be on call," Bolin says, citing tragedies such as accidents, death, emotional reactions and even suicide as crises he frequently deals with.

As a kind-of religious counselor to thousands of Riv employees, Bolin says his task is no different than other clergy.

"I get lots of issues about conflict, being misunderstood by bosses, things like that," he says. "My job is to help them deal and cope with problems, so it doesn’t affect the workplace."

Bolin says he has no problem reconciling the fact that he works in an environment of gambling and adult entertainment in the form of the Crazy Girls topless revue.

"The biggest challenge is to let people find their own way and not direct them, because clergy are trained to do that in Seminary," he says.

Moreover, Bolin has no internal conflict about his duties, for those wondering about his personal position on gambling, drinking, smoking and all the other adult fun found in a casino.

"I preach for something and not against anything," he says.

Bolin says the expectations from employees and casino patrons aren’t as demanding as one might think. "They only want two things — integrity (people want to know that I am what I say I am), and that I’m available," he says. "You touch people as a chaplain at the depths of who they really are."

Over the years, thousands have benefited from Bolin’s grace and goodness. "I’m with somebody every day," he says. "And every week there’s a new crisis, a life changing decision, illness or tragedy."

Through it all Bolin maintains a strong foundation of faith and optimism, which is a comfort to those who seek his assistance.

Walking through the sprawling hotel with his clergyman collar, Charlie "Chaplain" Bolin gets his share of smiles, waves and sweeping glances of adoration from staff members.

"I get more looks than a showgirl!" Bolin says.