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4th Circuit reshuffles casino dealers’ lawsuit

The one ironclad law of gambling is that it’s impossible to beat the house. A group of casino dealers in Maryland has moved one step closer to doing just that, however, after the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals revived their lawsuit seeking pay for the time they spent attending the casino’s 12-week dealer training course.

When the state of Maryland legalized table games at casinos in 2012, the proprietors of Maryland Live! casino hit the jackpot, but not without one problem: They needed to quickly train and hire over 800 new dealers. The casino promptly crafted what it billed a “dealer school,” but the attendees argue that under federal law, their time in the program counted as working hours for which the casino needs to ante up.

A district court judge mucked their suit, but on April 25, the 4th Circuit reversed and said the dealers could play on. The key question, the court said, in determining whether trainees are entitled to be paid for their time is whether the trainees or the company were the primary beneficiary of the program.

The employees argue that the benefit to the casino was obvious—it immediately acquired the large workforce it needed—while most of the curriculum was uniquely tailored to the needs of Maryland Live! and thus not transferable to work for other casinos. They claim that by trying to sell the training as a “school,” the casino violated the spirit of the federal minimum wage law.

The 4th Circuit, in one of the few cases in which it has considered these types of training programs, said the dealers had presented enough evidence to dodge the casino’s motion to dismiss.

Sidebar can vouch from much firsthand experience that the poker dealers at Maryland Live! exhibit the utmost professionalism. Hopefully, there’ll be time enough for dealing when the litigating’s done.

David Donovan, Dolan Staff Writer

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