Binion workers teed off

May 29, 2001 10:47 AM

First it was the dealers. Now the floor personnel are upset. Though the World Series of Poker dished out a record $18 million in jackpots, the tourney’s operators say it was a bust for them.

And they’re looking for payback.

Claiming that 40 floor personnel received just $40,000 from the 3 percent tip pool, organizers are blasting Binion’s Horseshoe owner Becky Behnen. "She stole our money," declares Tom Elias, co-director of the annual event.

Dealers, who initially threatened to walk out over the pool, ended up getting 1.5 percent. Dealers said they were generally happy, though not overjoyed, with their share.

Floor people, however, are outraged. Their share was divvied up as Behnen spread cash to hotel employees ranging from porters and valets to maids, cashiers and security guards.

"The floor people got screwed," said one tourney worker who requested anonymity.

Earning flat salaries of $150 to $175 a day, floor personnel, like dealers, count on tips to supplement their paychecks. The tokes help to compensate for marathon 12- to 14-hour shifts.

Because of the split with hotel employees, Elias figures that floor people came up as much as $230,000 short for the month-long tournament. In fact, they had to wait until three days after the tourney ended to get their tokes.

Elias, who received $1,750 in allotted tips for his work at the tourney, said he will ask the Nevada Gaming Control Board and the state Labor Commission to investigate the matter this week. Gaming agents entered the property five days into the tournament when dealers complained they weren’t being paid. Dealers then got their tokes, but the floor people did not.

"No one fathomed that [Behnen] would just take the money," Elias said. "It would be like a guy from the corporate office at the Bellagio coming down to the count room and demanding the money."

Behnen declined to respond to questions in a phone interview. But the simmering controversy has fueled talk of an alternative poker tournament at another venue next year. Some big-name players, including Doyle Brunson, have already opted out of the Horseshoe event. The dispute could throw future sponsorships into question.

Some players and personnel said they also were put off by what they viewed as heavy-handed behavior by Nick Behnen. Becky’s husband, who does not hold a gaming license, was seen ordering people off the premises and passing out pay envelopes during the tourney.