Christmas Eve was not the best day for me. It was that day that I received notice from the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe Indians Gaming Regulatory Authority that they have made a final determination that I am to be denied a gaming license, something needed for the job I was hired for, a Blackjack dealer. Let me explain further.
In September 2010, I saw that Grand Casino Mille Lacs were having a class for Blackjack dealers. This class was over a 12 day period, 10 days of class, 8 hours per day with 2 days off after the first 5 days. It was explained that not only was the class unpaid, but also that attendance was mandatory each and every day or you would not pass the class. Do not pass the class, you cannot get hired. Having little success finding a job for the previous almost 3 months, I took a chance and applied. I was accepted for the class. Among the numerous pages that I filled out, there was a section that stated that (I am paraphrasing here) “A person could not have any felony’s or be in debt more than 15K. When I signed that agreement, I knew I had no felony’s and I believed I was not in debt that much. The paperwork signed included authorization for a background check and a credit check. It was my belief that this all would happen BEFORE class actually started, and most certainly before actually being hired. Boy was I wrong.
The first day of class, we were split into two groups. One group had previous dealing experience and only had to complete 40 class hours, the group I was in had to complete the entire 80 hours. During the class, there were members that missed time and were told that in order to complete the class that they would have to make up the time, if it was available. If not, they *may* not pass. This was different than what we were told initially, but I decided that since it really didn’t affect me, I wouldn’t worry about it. There was one woman that did make up time; at least two others did not make up the time at this point
Upon completion of the first 9 days, (72 hours), we were able to audition for a job. Yes, audition. Even completing the class, we were not guaranteed a job. Everyone in the class passed the audition and was “hired”. We attended an additional 4 hours of class that afternoon, but it still wasn’t the 80 hours we were told we had to complete. Again, I didn’t worry about it, I passed the audition, and I was hired. I had the job.
We found out later that the two people were hired but had not made up the class time they had missed. We all just shrugged it off; good for them was the thinking of the majority even though it really wasn’t fair to those of us that were at the class every day but jobs are hard to come by as well. To make things worse, I also found out that tribal members were actually paid for the class, the amount of $600.00 even if they were not eligible to be hired (one from our class failed the alcohol test, yet received his payment for class)
Our “first day” was orientation. We were required to participate in a 4 hour required class, basically explaining various casino policies and procedures that were overall generic, not specific to the department we were hired for. We also had to take a drug test and alcohol test. I passed both tests, though there was at least one that did not. We also had our pictures taken for casino badges, was given a tour of the casino, picked up our uniforms and got our schedule for our actual “first shift”. Thus, I began my “career” as a Blackjack dealer. Surprisingly enough, it was after my first shift of actually dealing that I found out that my “references” were being called asking about me, asking if I was trusted or not. I was surprised in that I would have expected calls like this to be made BEFORE I went to work, not after I had been hired and actually working.
As new dealers, we were considered part time, and only scheduled for 2-3 days per week, but we could pick up shifts from those willing to give them up as long as we didn’t go over 5 shifts per week. The almost 6 weeks I was employed I picked up many shifts, and was never late, I never asked to go home early as many who work there do and I was always willing to stay late if needed. My first (and only) surveillance review, I was only told that I need to “clear my hands” more, meaning I had to show the cameras above that while dealing with the chips, my hands were not hiding anything. Other than that, I was constantly told I was doing a very good job by both other dealers and the “pit bosses”.
Then came the bad news. After working a day shift I had picked up, I was asked to go to the shift supervisor’s office. There I was told that I had been denied a gaming license. No explanation was given as to why. I’m not sure that even the one giving me the news knew why I was being let go beyond I was denied the gaming license. I was asked if I had received a certified letter. I said no, I had not, but did tell them that I had recently moved and it was possible that though I had updated my address with the casino, it may have gone to my old address. I was asked to turn in my badge and was dismissed. This was Nov 22nd. I was given a phone number of who to contact at the casino regarding the problem. First thing the next morning I called, but only got voice mail to which I left a message. I called back numerous times, only to continue to get voice mail. The next day was Thanksgiving and I knew no one would be in the office. I called again both Friday and the following Monday, but still only voice mail. On Tuesday the 29th, I decided to drive to the casino and see what I could find out. I went to the casino compliance office where I found out that the woman I needed to talk to was on vacation over the Thanksgiving holiday and was now sick, but expected back the next day. I was also given the certified letter that was sent, I was correct in that it was sent to the wrong address. I was denied a gaming license because I was more than 15K in debt, the majority being behind in child support. I was shown the paragraph that stated (again paraphrasing) that for my position, one could not have any felonies or be in debt more than 15K. However, bankruptcy, medical and foreclosures were allowed. The certified letter was dated the Nov 15th and gave me the option of appearing before the Gaming Regulatory Board on Nov 19th. Well, it now being the 29th I had obviously missed that. I was again told that the person I needed to talk to should be back the following day and that I could discuss my options with her.
That morning I called and it was decided that a new certified letter would be sent to my correct address and I would have the option of appearing before the board, asking for a waiver of that rule. This hearing was scheduled for Dec 16th in Hinckley. I was called Tuesday the 14th that the hearing date had been rescheduled for the 21st.
I had the chance to “appear” at the meeting via conference call, but I believed it would be far more beneficial if I was at the meeting itself, would show more “seriousness” in wanting to keep my job. Even though we had plenty of snow the night before, I drove to Hinckley and I appeared at the hearing. While there I offered evidence that a payroll deduction was already in place for my child support (including paying toward what I am behind). This was in place prior to my dismissal. I also included transfer request form showing I was trying to pick up additional hours in another department but was unable to do that since I had not actually worked for Grand Casino for 45 days. I also explained to the 4 member board that I felt it was completely unfair to deny employment for the reason of being behind on child support (debt) yet would allow someone to be employed that had quite literally gotten out of debt (bankruptcy) and someone who had not paid a debt for whatever reasons (foreclosure or medical). I was trying to pay my debt but needed the job to do it.
When I was a motel manager in Arizona, I had a verbal agreement with the motel owner. He wanted to pay cash, and I knew I was behind on my child support. I agreed that a majority of my payment from him would go to my child support payment. I would be paid $400 per week plus a room at the motel. $275 per week was supposed to go toward my child support, with $125 per week going to me. I worked there for over 2 years and I should not only have been caught up on what I was behind, but actually ahead of the game. I found out when I received notice to appear in court in Arizona that he wasn’t making ANY payments at all, just keeping the money. When I went to court in Arizona, my past due child support was reduced to a judgment, which allowed it to appear on my credit report. I don’t deny that being even further behind on my child support is 100% my fault for not following up to see that payments were made and for trusting that they were.
It doesn’t seem fair to me that I do everything I am suppose to do, attend all class days, complete all class hours offered, pass the class, pass the drug test, pass the alcohol test, be the best employee I can be, yet am technically “fired” for no other reason beyond that I am behind on child support which translates to more debt than their rules allowed. Apparently it is ok to bend rules for some, but not for others. Others do not follow rules that are set out by the Casino and/or gaming board yet to the best of my knowledge, are still employed.