Ultimate Las Vegas Tipping Guide
Last update: September 2021
|Cocktail Waitresses||$1 every 1-2 drinks
|Dealers, progressive jackpots||Use slots schedule below|
| Slot Attendants
(for hand pays, per payoff amount)
|$1200: $20 tip
|Taxi/Uber Drivers|| 15% if they drive safely
|Shuttle Bus Drivers
||$1 per 2 people
|Valets||$2-3 on pickup|
|Maids (housekeeping)||$2-4 per room per day|
|Bellhops & Airport Sky Caps||$1-2/bag|
|Waitpersons||15% of pre-tax amount|
|Front Desk||$20 to try for a free room upgrade|
|These are minimums—you're certainly welcome to tip more|
Vegas is a service economy and many workers
literally earn their living from tips. Every
dealer, from the low roller joints to the Bellagio, gets paid only
minimum wage or barely more from the casino itself. Dealers,
cocktail waitresses, cabbies, and bellhops depend on your support
for their livelihood. Tipping isn't a reward for good service,
it's the normal way that poorly-paid workers are supposed
to be able to make a decent living. Think of tipping as part
of the cost of your entertainment while you're in Vegas. And
proper tipping isn't expensive, either. When you add it up
you'll see that the money you spend on even proper tips will likely
be a small, small fraction of all the money you'll spend on your
Why we tip in the first place
Many people think that we tip to reward good
service, but that's not it. First, tips are given
specifically so that low wage earners can earn a decent living,
since they make poverty wages otherwise. Second, tips are
given to prevent bad service, which is absolutely not the
same as rewarding good service. I'll explain in a
minute, but first let's look at the low-wage issue.
The normal minimum wage in the U.S. is $7.25 an
hour, but tipped employees can be paid as little as $2.13. Yes,
$2.13. Now, some
states have higher minimum wages for tipped employees, and
Nevada is one of them. In Nevada the minimum is $6.55 to $7.55
an hour for tipped workers. That would put such workers only
barely above the federal poverty line if they never got any
tips. Sure, workers are "just doing their job", but the custom
is that their job is partially paid for by the customer, in order to
prevent bad service. Which takes us to the next point.
By having the customer shoulder part of the burden for the worker's wage, a business can make sure customers get better service. If a business paid 100% of the worker's wage and there was no tipping, workers would have little incentive to provide good service. Those who say "The business should just pay a proper wage so I don't have to tip," are forgetting two things. First, if that happened, the cost you paid for your meal (or whatever) would skyrocket. Second, without a tipping system, you could expect service levels to go way down. So remember, you tip not because the service is good, you tip as long as the service isn't bad.
By the way, tipped workers do report their tips to the IRS. The IRS isn't clueless, and they expect tipped workers to report a certain minimum of tips. So in fact, those workers pay taxes on those tips whether they actually received them or not.
How much to tip Cocktail Waitresses
Casinos provide free drinks (alcoholic and otherwise) while you're playing any game. A waitress comes around every once in a while to take your order. Just like the dealers, cocktail waitresses are paid minimum wage or close to it by the casinos and make most of their livelihood from tips. Here's how much the waitress makes if everyone tips these amounts:
Annual Cocktail Waitress Earnings If everyone tips this much... ...she'll make about this much $2 per drink $110,500 $1 per drink $62,500 $2 every 3 drinks $46,660 $1 every other drink $38,500 Assumptions: (1) 2000 work hours/yr. (2) Minimum wage of $7.25/hr. pd. by casino. (3) 20% tip-out to bartender. (4) 60,000 drinks served/year (30/hr.), based on my direct observation of waitresses' productivity in a Vegas casino.
Keep these downsides of the job in mind when you decide how much you think they should make:
- Have to work in a smoky environment, every day. It's amazing that OSHA allows it.
- Have to wear and walk in uncomfortable heels for their whole shift.
- Have to often deal with rude comments and groping.
So, while the job doesn't require a college degree or a lot
of training, it's not a walk in the park. (Except
at Park MGM. Ha ha!)
Cocktail waitress etiquette
(The following comes from a friend of mine who's a
Place the tip on the serving tray. You can tip with casino chips if you like.
Waitresses record who ordered what based on where they're sitting in the casino, so if you move don't expect the waitress to remember you. If you moved, then when she gets to you tell her that you moved and what you ordered. Waitresses work different sections of the casino so if you move out of your waitress' section don't expect (or ask) her to come find you to deliver your drink. Cocktail waitresses can't bring you food of any kind, not even peanuts, so don't even ask. The casino is well stocked, so there's no need to ask whether they have your particular drink—just order what you want since they probably have it, and if they don't the waitress will tell you.
Just because a cocktail waitress might be dressed in a sexy outfit doesn't mean it's okay for you to touch her, or to say naughty things. Don't take the drink off the tray yourself, because that can upset the balance of the tray and cause the waitress to drop it. Don't ask a cocktail waitress which slot machines are the loosest—all slots in a casino generally pay out about the same amount, the odds are against you in every single one of them, and the cocktail servers aren't privy to the slot settings. If a waitress actually tells you which machine she thinks is good then she's playing your naiveté. (More on slot machines.)
How much to tip dealers
SHORT ANSWER: Tip at least $6/hour.
All dealers get paid minimum wage or close to it by the casino, even at the best casinos in town. Don't think that their tips are gravy on top of their earnings: for dealers the tips pretty much are their earnings. And they pay taxes on those tips, just like the cocktail waitresses. Here's how much to tip, according to how much you think a dealer should earn. This assumes an average of 3 players at the table, and that all players tip the same amount.
How much to tip the dealer If you think the dealer
should make this much...
...then tip this much $80,000/yr • $6.7k/mo $11/hr. $70,000/yr • $5.8k/mo $9/hr. $60,000/yr • $5.0k/mo $7/hr. $50,000/yr • $4.2k/mo $6/hr. $40,000/yr • $3.3k/mo $4/hr. $30,000/yr • $2.5k/mo $2/hr.
Wondering how much dealers actually earn? See my separate article: How much do dealers make?
Tip whether you win or lose. It's not the dealer's fault if you lose. The odds are against you, you're supposed to lose.
While I'm a big advocate of tipping, I'm frequently annoyed by dealers who have a sense of entitlement, and expect me to tip big just because I won big. If you're such a dealer you can feel free to write in and make your case and I'll likely print it, but the first thing I'll want to know from you is what do you think fair annual earnings for a dealer is? (The only dealer ever to write in said he thought he should be getting $10,000/month! That's the freaking 92nd percentile for income in 2019, higher than the median for even lawyers. He rather proved my point about dealers' sense of entitlement.)
I'm a bit of a communist when I tip. If I see that a dealer is making $30/hr. from other people overtipping, I might not tip at all, even if it's at the Bellagio and I'm betting black. But at a low-end casino like the El Cortez where dealers make as little as $88 a day, I might tip twice what I normally do even if I'm betting red. A typical dealer at the El Cortez needs my $10/hr. more than a typical dealer at the Bellagio needs my $6/hr.
How to tip dealers
Tip the dealer with chips, not cash. You can make your hourly tip all at once or spread it out throughout the hour. Either way, I suggest tipping right when you sit down, because then the dealer will be friendlier.
You can give the chip by pushing it towards the dealer, or you can make a bet for her/him, which is more common. The normal way to bet for the dealer is to place the dealer's bet beside your own bet. If you win then the dealer gets both the chip you bet for her as well as the payout chip. But there's a much better way to tip that I'm going to let you know about.
Instead of placing the tip chip next to your bet, put it on top of your bet. Be sure to tell the dealer that the bet is for her so she knows you tried to tip even if you lose. Then if you win, give the dealer only the winning chip, and keep the original tip chip on top of your next bet. If you get a streak going then you might be able to tip the dealer five times off a single effort! I did this once at the El Cortez with a $5 chip, winning ten hands in a row, and netting the dealer $50 for the streak. It cost me only $5, and in a few minutes she made more than twice what El Cortez dealers typically make in tips in a whole day.
Almost every casino requires dealers to pool their tips. As such, it's impossible for you to really reward a good dealer or punish a bad dealer. If you don't tip a bad dealer, then all of the dealers make less money. While this isn't fair to the other dealers, I still suggest you decline to tip bad dealers. That's because if we can't apply an incentive for dealers to give better service, then at least the other dealers can, through peer pressure. Also, if you tip a dealer no matter how bad the service is, that dealer will see little reason to give good service, since the tips roll in either way.
Casinos require dealers to pool tips for three reasons:
- It makes the bookkeeping easy. Casinos just collect all the tip money themselves, count it, take the taxes out of it for the IRS, and then distribute the money to the dealers. Otherwise they might have to collect a separate tip report from each individual dealer.
- It equalizes the rewards. Dealers on the higher limit tables get more tips than those at the lower limit tables, so tip pooling ensures that all the dealers get the same amount of money. Of course, an obvious counter argument is that dealers on the higher limit tables have earned those positions by virtue of seniority or excellent service, and thus have earned the higher tips they make.
- It reduces the possibility of collusion with the players. If a dealer gets to keep their own tips then they're likely to cheat for a player who's tipping really well. This is unlikely in modern times with video surveillance and stiff legal penalties, but it's still a risk, and casinos don't like extra risk.
Of course, players and even many dealers would prefer that dealers keep their own tips—players because they want the ability to reward dealers directly who give good service and dealers (at least the good dealers) because they reap the rewards of the good service they give. Wishing aside, this situation isn't likely to change any time soon.
All the etiquette guides say 10% at a buffet is standard. Frankly, that seems ridiculously high. A buffet server does nothing other than handle drinks and clear plates, so it seems they could easily serve 20 customers an hour. And if each tipped $1, that would be $20/hr. on top of a minimum wage. So $1-2 per person seems reasonable. If a buffet server disagrees, they're welcome to write in to let me know what I'm missing. Caesars agrees with me that $1 is sufficient.
Maids clean about 16 rooms per day.
If you skip service for one or more days, I suggest tipping for that day anyway at the end of your stay.
These guidelines apply to tipping at all hotels, not just Vegas hotels.
Interestingly, scientific research shows that Las Vegas maids have
elevated blood pressure specifically because of the stress of
working hard for little pay.
Etiquette expert Diane Gottsman says $2-5, on pickup. (Forbes, 2018)
$20 to get a free room upgrade
This is less a tip than an outright bribe, but anyway, you can usually get a free room upgrade by tipping $20 to the front desk. Not sometimes, usually. Put the $20 between your ID and your credit card, then casually ask if there are any complimentary upgrades available. Most front desk staff will give the $20 back if they can't upgrade you. Check out FrontDeskTip.com for more.
Tipping on the pre-tax amount for meals is
According to the Washington Post food critic, it's okay to tip restaurant waitstaff on the pre-tax amount of the bill, rather than on the total.
And here's a handy way to calculate a standard tip: Sales tax in Las Vegas is 7.75%, so if you double the tax you'll be tipping 15.5%. If you want to leave 20%—well, if you can't do that easily already, then my explanation probably wouldn't make any sense. :)