Why Bartending at a Casino Can Make You $100,000 a Year

Bartender pouring drinks

Marianna Massey/Getty Images

Ever wonder what a casino cocktail server job is like, or what it can pay? Try long hours, harsh conditions, but some serious cash up to $100,000 a year. 

Why the Job Can Be Great

Many jobs found at casino resorts are entry-level, and workers that prove themselves can move on to better jobs. However, there are plenty of casinos that hire and train their cocktail servers and don't demand previous experience. Much like a casino dealer who is hired and trained to work on the casino floor, many cocktail waitresses find the pay to be sufficient to keep them coming back each day without any thoughts of training for another job.

And, like casino dealer jobs, the supervisor jobs usually pay less than the income earned by their underlings. Yes, dealers and cocktail servers often make more than their bosses. Want to know why? Because of tips.

Pay Scale

Pay scales vary widely from region to region and even from casino to casino. A small casino may not have as good a benefits package as a larger property, but since most casinos pay all tip-earning employees close to minimum wage, it's the quality of service and the number of players that influences tip rates.

A cocktail waitress working a small club has a chance to get to know the players better, see regular guests, and makes a good living. At the same time, a server at a major property like the Beau Rivage or the MGM Grand Detroit may make more because there are more players to serve or less; because there is no way to provide excellent service with large crowds and not enough servers. Of course, the volume of players has a large impact on tips earned. 

Free Drinks

Another factor in earnings and workload can be whether the property serves free drinks or charges for them. If you only go to Vegas or Nevada casinos, you are used to getting free drinks. As many as you want until you fall down. However, many casinos charge for their drinks.

Income levels can vary here too, because, in the long run, quality service gets noticed and rewarded the most. However, serving drinks that must be paid for can reduce the number of drinks served during a shift because the server is making a change, not just taking orders and bagging tips.

The Work Load

The workload in any food service job can be brutal. Cocktail waitresses may not work as hard as a coin loader, but it's not easy work. Imagine carrying a heavy tray of drinks all night long! And that's the easy part.

Cocktail waitresses are expected to take orders, clean the ashtrays, pick-up empty bottles and glasses, give directions, smile, look glamorous, know the players as well as the bosses, and manage to get back to the bar without forgetting anything.

Once there, they have to go to the server station, tell the bartender all the orders (in whatever order the bartender wants), clean-up around the station, wait for the drinks, and get back to the tables or slots before the players think they have been forgotten. And no matter how fast they are, the players want faster service.

Servers have other duties too. Usually, the server has to make or retrieve coffee and then pour the glasses themselves. They have to arrange the drinks on their trays to make delivery easy, and they usually have to retrieve cigarettes for guests also. The ability of their co-workers, the bartenders, bar-backs, and fellow servers have much to do with having a happy, successful shift.

As for the pay scale, the benefits package and minimum-wage only go so far. Cocktail servers can make several hundred dollars each shift in tips! Many servers make over $50 an hour.

$100,000 a Year Job

That means many cocktail waitresses in casinos are making six figures. A $100,000 a year job that requires no college background and may be an entry-level position is hard to find. Of course, there are plenty of servers who find the take-home pay to be considerably less. Servers usually split a part of their income with their bartenders and the bar-backs. And, not every cocktail waitress in the casino can expect to make the same income.

At many casinos, the servers work their way up to the best positions. A new server may find themselves working the "bus section" or nickel slots, Keno, or the sports book where tipping is lighter than other places.

Excellent servers hope to move to dollar slot machines and high-limit slot areas and the table game pits. The high-limit table games are the best areas to work, providing the tables have enough players. These guests often think nothing of tipping in green chips ($25 denomination).

Cocktail servers also put up with plenty of stares, as well as disappointed looks from gamblers who are losing. Turning away from disgruntled guests without taking anything personally is a unique and important facet of casino work, especially for cocktail servers.

And, as a final reminder, you have to interact with the guests and your co-workers. Customer service is at the heart of most casino jobs these days, and playing to the crowd is mandatory and the most profitable. You also might want to see if your new benefits package includes chiropractic care. Carrying those drink trays all night is a tough job!