An automated way for casino patrons to order drinks that changes how servers do their job is raising the risk of intoxicated customers, Caesars Entertainment workers alleged Thursday.
About 90 casino workers rallied and presented a petition to the state Department of Gaming Enforcement, asking the agency hold hearings on Caesars Entertainment's beverage-service policies at its four Atlantic City properties - Bally's, Caesars, Harrah's Resort and Showboat.
"There have been changes in the serving of alcoholic beverages to a patron, from a single server to multiple servers, thus taking away the opportunity for any server to be able to evaluate the condition of the patron, and make the socially responsible decision of serving an alcoholic beverage to a patron who may or may not be intoxicated," the petition says.
"Anybody can pull it together to raise their hand and give me a dollar" for a drink, said Eve Davis, of Atlantic City, who said she has worked as a cocktail server for 31 years, including 28 at Showboat Casino Hotel.
"I don't have time to stop and talk" and assess a patron's intoxication, said Lucille Ace, 50, of Absecon, who works at Bally's Atlantic City. Davis and Ace gave the petition to state Department of Gaming Enforcement.
Ace said one drunken customer has already assaulted her.
This spring, she said, she brought a drink to a woman. The woman, after being served a number of drinks by other servers, didn't want to pay. The customers started "haggling" over the bill.
As she went to cancel the drink order, Ace said "out of nowhere, she went and punched me in the face." Ace pressed charges, and she said the judge sentenced the customer to rehabilitation and anger-management classes.
At issue is the beverage policy that the union said began several years ago. At Caesars properties, patrons place drink orders on touch screens. Casino staff makes the drinks, and cocktail servers provide them to customers.
The process may reduce the need for servers, but the union and servers said the policy could create an unsafe environment in the casinos.
Both Davis and Ace said they had to be trained in responsible alcohol serving. Both have to pledge to not serve visibly intoxicated patrons. And both said they feared being held liable for serving a customer who later committed a crime or injured someone.
Local 54 of UNITE HERE President Bob McDevitt said the union has filed a number of grievances. After cocktail servers independently circulated the petition, the union initially presented it to the Casino Control Commission.
The CCC deferred to the DGE, McDevitt said, setting up Thursday's protest. The union members met in a nearby park before walking to the DGE's Atlantic Avenue headquarters and holding an impromptu rally, chanting slogans in front of the building. They gradually dispersed after handing in the petition.
McDevitt also said the union was concerned that Caesars has also increased the number of rooms that union housekeeping staff had to clean.
A previous agreement signed last fall, McDevitt said, added the rooms but streamlined the cleaning responsibilities in each. He said the casino is requiring more rooms, but has not lessened any cleaning.
Katie Dougherty, Caesars spokeswoman, said Thursday the casino would not comment.
Lisa Spenger, spokeswoman for the state Division of Gaming Enforcement, said the division would look at the petition and contact the union.
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