Casino Women: Courage in Unexpected Places

Overview

Casino Women is a pioneering look at the female face of corporate gaming. Based on extended interviews with maids, cocktail waitresses, cooks, laundry workers, dealers, pit bosses, managers, and vice presidents, the book describes in compelling detail a world whose enormous profitability is dependent on the labor of women assigned stereotypically female occupations—making beds and serving food on the one hand and providing sexual allure on the other. But behind the neon lies another world, peopled by thousands of...

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Casino Women: Courage in Unexpected Places

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Overview

Casino Women is a pioneering look at the female face of corporate gaming. Based on extended interviews with maids, cocktail waitresses, cooks, laundry workers, dealers, pit bosses, managers, and vice presidents, the book describes in compelling detail a world whose enormous profitability is dependent on the labor of women assigned stereotypically female occupations—making beds and serving food on the one hand and providing sexual allure on the other. But behind the neon lies another world, peopled by thousands of remarkable women who assert their humanity in the face of gaming empires' relentless quest for profits.

The casino women profiled here generally fall into two groups. Geoconda Arguello Kline, typical of the first, arrived in the United States in the 1980s fleeing the war in Nicaragua. Finding work as a Las Vegas hotel maid, she overcame her initial fear of organizing and joined with others to build the preeminent grassroots union in the nation—the 60,000-member Culinary Union—becoming in time its president. In Las Vegas, "the hottest union city in America," the collective actions of union activists have won economic and political power for tens of thousands of working Nevadans and their families. The story of these women's transformation and their success in creating a union able to face off against global gaming giants form the centerpiece of this book.

Another group of women, dealers and middle managers among them, did not act. Fearful of losing their jobs, they remained silent, declining to speak out when others were abused, and in the case of middle managers, taking on the corporations' goals as their own. Susan Chandler and Jill B. Jones appraise the cost of their silence and examine the factors that pushed some women into activism and led others to accept the status quo.

Casino Women will appeal to all readers interested in women, gambling, and working-class life, and in how ordinary people stand up to corporate actors who appear to hold all the cards.

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Editorial Reviews

John W. Wilhelm

"Casino Women illuminates the often overlooked contributions of women both to the gaming industry and to the labor movement. Relying on the voices of women who have built the union and the industry in Nevada, Susan Chandler and Jill B. Jones have crafted an important account of work on the struggle for democracy in postindustrial America."—John W. Wilhelm, President, UNITE HERE

author of The Sex of Class and The Other Women's Dorothy Sue Cobble

"Casino Women is an absorbing journey into the heart of Nevada's gaming empire and a triumphant tale of how women on the front lines of service work took on some of the world's largest corporations and won. Anyone who cares about the indignities and injustices faced by working people today and wants to know how we can change the casino capitalist world in which we all live should read this inspiring book."—Dorothy Sue Cobble, author of The Sex of Class and The Other Women's Movement

Annelise Orleck

"Casino Women is profound and revealing. Susan Chandler and Jill B. Jones offer fresh and vivid insights into the daily lives of women in the casino industry, giving readers a multilayered sense of their motivations, thought processes, feelings, frailties, and addictions. It is somewhat of a stereotype—the world-weary-but-wise bartender, blackjack dealer, croupier. And yet, the people in this book do seem to have a remarkable degree of self-awareness, a keen ability to analyze their situations in larger context, recognition of the joys and traps in the work they do—jobs that are sometimes exciting and sometimes relatively well paid, but often physically battering and soul-sapping. This book contains both haunting and inspiring characterizations that humanize by digging beneath the glossy, clamorous, smoky surface of commercial gambling establishments to the complex, often tragic effects of that environment on people's lives."—Annelise Orleck, Dartmouth College, author of Storming Caesar's Palace: How Black Mothers Fought Their Own War on Poverty

From the Publisher

"For all of the popular culture that's been based in and around the casino industry—Casino Royale, 21, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and many others—few have ever taken into account the stories of women working to keep the industry going. . . . Susan Chandler and Jill B. Jones penned this book with the desire to not only fill the void, but also to provide inspiration for others. . . .The emphasis is most certainly on the harsh working conditions and uncertainty that many of Nevada’s women face. Casino Women unashamedly offers this view in an attempt to make more people aware of the conditions faced, and in the longer term, to improve these women’s’ lives. . . . Many of the tales included are certainly fascinating and provide an intriguing insight to an area hardly ever spoken about."—CasinoOnline.co.uk

Library Journal
This is a much-needed but, unfortunately, poorly written book. There's trouble from the get-go: using the terms gaming and gamers for their subject, Chandler (social work, Univ. of Nevada, Reno) and Jones (social work, emeritus; Univ. of Nevada, Reno) may confuse readers who take those terms to refer to noncorporate video and electronic games and the people who play them. The book is well intentioned; certainly, the profiled women, who work in Nevada's casino industry—usually behind the scenes in every role from maid to pit boss to corporate executive—deserve our attention. But the use of innumerable quotes from seemingly unedited, rambling interviews and a profusion of amorphous facts do not help to delineate the financial, fiscal, and emotional problems these women experience, or the formal and informal systems they have developed in order to cope. Allowing one of their subjects to liken working in the laundry of "a high-end Reno casino" to working "in a concentration camp" does not make for much authority or credibility. VERDICT Recommended for specialists and researchers to use as a starting point toward more finely tuned efforts.—Ellen Gilbert, Princeton, NJ
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801450143
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press
  • Publication date: 7/28/2011
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Susan Chandler is Associate Professor of Social Work at the University of Nevada, Reno.

Jill B. Jones is Associate Professor of Social Work, Emeritus, at the University of Nevada, Reno.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments

1. "You Have to Do It for the People Coming"

Part I: Back of the House, Front of the House

2. "They're Treating Us Like Donkeys, Really": Housekeeping and Other Back of the House Work

3. "Kiss My Foot": Cocktail Waitressing

Part II: Union Women

4. “I'll Always Love the Union”

5. “Here's My Heart”

Part III: Nonunion Women Stand Up

6. Darlene Jespersen v. Harrah’s Entertainment, Inc.

7. Liberation Theology, Pit Boss Style

Part IV: Dealers: The Illusion of Power

8. Dealing: The View from Dead Center

9. Stuck

10. Big Tobacco Rides the Strip

Part V: Women in Management

11. Crossing Over to the Other Side

12. Conclusion: “A Marvelous Victory”

Notes
Bibliography
Index

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