Continued Atlantic City casino deregulation could soon mean the elimination of casino floor supervisors after the Division of Gaming Enforcement published "emergency regulations" on its website Wednesday that could save casinos millions of dollars annually.
The new regulation eliminates staffing requirements for table games supervisors, such as pit bosses. It is the state's latest attempt to streamline New Jersey's gaming laws.
DGE spokeswoman Lisa Spengler could not confirm how many people may be affected by the move.
Under the new regulation, which will take effect April 13, each casino will be required to employ a casino manager, who will be the executive responsible for overseeing all casino games. In addition to the manager, casinos must also staff casino clerks, slot attendants and floor persons, the supervisor assigned for overseeing the operation and conduct of all table games, including poker.
The new rules also state that casinos are not prohibited from using additional workers in positions other than those listed, nor do the rules limit the DGE from ordering additional workers in the casino necessary for property supervision. So individual casinos have the choice to retain supervisors if they choose to do so.
By eliminating the pit supervisor, who watches the floor person and the dealer, it means fewer eyes watching the tables, said Carl Zeitz, an independent consultant and former member of the Casino Control Commission.
"So what has been touted as deregulation is beginning to look like un-regulation. This is beginning to be a self-regulated industry under this kind of change," he said.
Zeitz said he had a number of concerns relating to the emergency regulations, including why the rule-making process had not been conducted in public, who asked for the rule changes and how that request was presented.
"The Casino Control Commission would never have done these as an emergency. Why is it an emergency not to have pit bosses in Atlantic City?" he said. "To do this out of the public's sight is outrageous. That's why we need the commission. That's why we had the commission."
Under the state's new regulations, the DGE absorbed most of the duties previously handled by the CCC. The latest DGE regulation comes after 115 CCC inspectors lost their jobs in February as part of the sweeping regulatory overhaul of the state's casino rules. Previously, the state required gaming inspectors to always be present at every casino.
Atlantic City Hilton Casino Resort spokesman Tina Belluscio said the casino did not have immediate plans to take advantage of the deregulation.
"It's a brand new rule," Belluscio said. "Hilton has no plans to change anything at this time."
Dave Coskey, vice president of marketing for Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, said the casino will not make any hasty moves, either.
"We are reviewing the revised regulations and we are in the process of determining their specific application to our business," Coskey said. "We have not made any decisions and will only do so after we fully understand their impact."
Roger Gros, publisher of the Las Vegas-based Global Gaming Business Magazine, said the changes bring Atlantic City's casino-worker hierarchy more in line with those around the country and allows local casinos to better rely on technological advances in security.
When Gros started as a dealer in Atlantic City in 1979, the casinos had catwalks over the floors for security to watch what was going on during the games. Cameras and other security measures have long replaced those, he said.
"The old requirement that pit bosses and supervisors oversee a certain number of tables is outdated. You don't see that in other jurisdictions anymore," Gros said. "I think (the deregulation) brings the industry up to industry standards and will not have any negative impact, for the most part, for the people who oversee those tables."
In January, the state Legislature overhauled casino regulation to resemble Las Vegas' more lenient system. For years, New Jersey's system was considered the standard around the world for its stringent checks and balances.
Legislators pushed deregulation as a way to help casinos survive and thrive as competition from nearby states increases and Atlantic City casino revenues plunge monthly. The governor's advisory panel stated the gaming reform could save $15 million to $25 million annually.
Bob Griffin, president of the Casino Association of New Jersey, refused comment Thursday. In January, Griffin said the deregulation is a "huge positive" that would save the gaming industry money to not only operate more efficiently but also free up money to better market Atlantic City.
Gaming and political leaders hope the deregulation combined with the newly formed state-run Tourism District could turn the city around. Atlantic City is expected to announce its 31st consecutive month of declining casino revenue next week.
The newly posted rules eliminate pages of details that were listed in the state's original CCC regulations, including a comprehensive listing of the chain of command in a casino and supervisory responsibilities.
The new DGE rules are less specific and only include job titles, including a casino manager, assistant manager, a table games shift manager and slot shift manager. Underneath those supervisors is the casino clerk, a floor person and a slot attendant. Dealers, stick persons and box persons were not named in the rules.
Eliminating requirements for pit bosses was included on a "wish list" written by the Casino Association of New Jersey in March 2009.
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