A Casino Collecting legend, curator of History and a Great friends Stories, Steven Cutler

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The Chip Spa

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My First Casino Job
By Steve Cutler

In 1972 I moved back to Las Vegas, I always considered Vegas home. I had dropped out of college, quit my job as an actuarial analyst, bummed across the country and looked like Moses. What was I going to do? I moved in with my grandparents and looked to my grandfather for guidance. The next morning the beard disappeared along with the very long curly hair.

I was just turning 21 and he suggested I seek employment in the gaming industry. I knew nothing about the industry, but he assured me he knew people. The word for that in Vegas is "Juice". My grandfather was a tailor and made custom suits for many of the casino bosses, he was also a Mason and Shriner at the highest level, he knew people. The day after my 21st birthday he took me down to the El Cortez located in downtown Las Vegas. It was a couple of blocks away from the cluster of well-known casinos such as The Golden Nugget, The Horseshoe, Mint and many others. It was built in 1941, cinder block exterior, no hotel and basically looked like they never made any improvements, frozen in time. The original owner was Ben Siegel. What was my grandfather getting me into?

Jackie Gaughan was the current owner and that is who we met with. With very little conversation he told me I was going to be a dealer for him and instructed me to get a sheriff's card and report for work tomorrow evening. I knew nothing about dealing blackjack or any other game for that matter, I was a true break-in dealer. I was paid $1.60 an hour and received no tips. A real dealer stood behind me to correct all my errors. I never attended a dealer school, so it was learn on the job. I practiced in my off hours at home and shortly thereafter the real dealer standing behind me was no longer needed. At that point I received an equal share of tips which were dispersed daily in an envelope, all cash. Nothing was reported to the IRS in those days. My tokes, another word for tips, amounted to about $10 a day, a great day was $20. The clientele was all local and mostly blue collar.

Fights were not uncommon in the wee hours of the morning. My shift was 6PM until 2AM, That was when all the action occurred. After about 6 months of employment, I had learned all the games, I was the proverbial "Jack of all trades and master of none". Every Friday was payday, our six day pay checks amounted to about $80. After work the dealers were allowed to go to the bar for a free drink. After having my drink, I left to go home. Parking was located where the hotel currently resides. On my way to the car, I saw a fellow dealer lying on the ground bleeding, he had just been beaten and robbed. I asked him if he was okay and he responded yes, I saw the assailant fleeing and took off after him. In those days I was in great shape and had no problem chasing him two blocks and grabbing his jacket from behind. I was able to pull him down to the ground where he hit his head and became unconscious. My adrenaline was going and I proceeded to beat the crap out of an unconscious man. Thank God he didn't die since there were many witnesses. The police were there and hailed me as some kind of hero as this guy had a long record of assaults. They gave me a blackjack (a weapon used for knocking people out) and told me to never get my hands dirty again. When I went home and shared the story with my Grandparents the next day, they were very upset and told me I needed to get a job on the strip where crime was virtually non-existent. I gave Jackie Gaughan two weeks' notice, thanked him for the opportunity, and that was the end of my El Cortez employment and the conclusion of my first job in the gaming industry.

It was my honor to induct Mr. Gaughan into The Casino Legends Hall of Fame in 1999 as one of the first recipients in The Builder and Visionary category.