So you sit down at your favorite slot/video poker machine and—BOOM—the stars align such that the triple 7s, cartoon faces or necessary Royal card line up to award you a healthy jackpot! Hi job! However, if the prize is over $1000, you’re going to have to wait for a slot attendant to come pay your reward. This is commonly referred to as a “Hand Pay”. No, we’re not talking about the goings on within a Chinese massage parlor! This is a financially lucrative situation, one that is probably going to require the acknowledgement to the IRS come April 15th.
A hand-pay is when a slot attendant is required to pay out whatever the jackpot amount is, in cash. So if you’re playing $1 video poker, your royal flush is worth a whopping $4,000! Nice! But that also means you’re going to have to wait for the slot attendant to notice your flashing machine, come over to determine the hand-pay amount, go get that in cash and come pay to pay out and reset your machine. Nice problem to have, right?
Well, a message board I contribute to brought up the issue of tipping the slot attendant and how much is an appropriate amount. Some of the thoughts/comments/concerns were valid and I agreed with, others I dismissed at cheap lazy asses.
So let’s walk though this: You’ve hit your jackpot/royal flush, now what? You have a light at the top of the machine which will light up and/or blink to notify the nearest slot attendant that you’ve won something large enough to warrant a hand-pay. The nearest (most observant) attendant will come over to your machine, will congratulate you on your win, will take down some information about the machine and may or may not start tinkering with your machine at this point in time (they will, just maybe not right at this moment). At this point, it is the responsibility of the slot attendant to go to cashier and obtain the amount of money you’ve won. But this is where the time between finding the slot attendant and getting your money varies. The attendant is responsible for providing the casino and the gaming control board all the relevant information about the win. Things such as how much was won, date/time, machine number, etc etc. They also have to get the money from the cashier, and depending on the dollar amount, it might require a few suits to oversee and authorize the cash distribution from the cashier cage. Next the attendant will back to you and hand-pay you your jackpot by counting out the money into your hand. Win $4,000 and expect a LOT of Franklins to weigh down your forearm.
But now comes the interesting part: To tip or not to tip? It is generally understood that you are to tip your attendant for bringing you your money. I know, I know, you’re thinking it’s your money, why should you have to tip? Well, because, you just do…deal with it! So, fine, you concede the point, so how much do you tip?
Some people like to tip a flat amount. “I gave her $20 on my $1500 jackpot” or “I tipped $100 on my $4,000 royal”. Those are pretty legitimate. Others said that they tipped approximately 1%-2% of whatever their jackpot was worth. That’s acceptable too. There really is not right answer to how much to tip, just that you should tip. Certainly there’s something to be said about karma.
The general consensus is that speed of the attendant is a determining factor. If the attendant is gone for no more than 10 – 15 minutes, that is to be expected for payouts valued at $5,000 or less. If the jackpot is $10,000+, be ready for a LOT of suits to be reviewing videos for cheating, signing off on cash releases, and so forth…that’s not the fault of the attendant. But for your run of the mill slot machines where the top pay off is a few thousand dollars, a hand-pay should be pretty quick.
Another issue to consider is whether you’re financially up or down for the trip. Generally speaking, we gamblers are financially down as an overall (these casinos weren’t build from winners). So instead we gauge it on a trip-by-trip basis. If you’re down $5,000 and win $2,000 you may not want to tip as much as if you just sat down in the casino. But even so, you should still throw the attendant a bone of $10—you’ve at least minimized your loses!
The final consideration is what to do if you’re paid exclusively in $100 bills. In my humble opinion, a good attendant will make sure to break at least one of those $100 bills into $20s. There is something about being paid only in hundreds that makes me feel as though the attendant is expecting you to pay them with one of those bills. If I win $4,000+ then I don’t mind. But if I win $2,000? Sorry Sweetheart, you’re getting $40-$60. One time I hit a hand-pay, I had no other cash in my pocket and the attendant paid me only in $100 bills…guess how much he got? Nada. I wasn’t about to ask for change and I hadn’t won enough to warrant a $100 tip.
One last thought…the slot supervisor that comes with the attendant to act as a witness on both your and attendant’s behalf usually is not allowed to accept tips. So only tip the person that hands you your winnings.