Lee Ryan Miller

Motivational Speaker       Writer       Teacher      Scholar       World Traveler



an excerpt from Lee Ryan Millerís

Teaching Amidst the
Neon Palm Trees

An exciting true story

Intrigue and Corruption
in Las Vegas.
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      In August 1998, during the week before classes began, I attended the new faculty orientation at the Community College of Southern Nevada (CCSN). It was a day-long event that consisted primarily of boring talks by various college administrators. We learned about the demographics of the institution, the financial situation, the college facilities, academic policies and regulations, and a host of other very dry topics. By late afternoon, I was struggling to stay awake.

      The very last item on our schedule was a visit to the Gaming Department. “Gaming” – a euphemism that avoids the negative connotation of “gambling” – is the name by which the top industry in the state of Nevada called itself. Jobs as dealers in casinos can be quite lucrative. I have been told that dealers on the Strip can earn as much as $80,000 per year. Not surprisingly, casinos are rather selective as to whom they will hire as dealers, and they all require that applicants have a certificate in dealing. The Gaming Department at CCSN offers courses leading to this certificate.

       The chair of the Gaming Department gave an interesting talk full of humorous anecdotes from his years working as a dealer. We learned, among other things, that when you tip a dealer, s/he is required by federal regulations immediately to drop the tip into a receptacle. All tips are tallied and divided at the end of the day. This requirement was instituted after the IRS came to recognize that dealers earned a lot more than the meager hourly wages they were reporting on their tax returns.

       “Couldn’t a dealer just pocket the tip?” I asked.

       “If your name is Lance Burton, maybe,” he replied. Burton is a Las Vegas magician famous for his mastery of sleight of hand. “But the rest of us would get caught on one of the video cameras watching our every move.” It’s not just the dealers who are being watched. Cameras watch every inch of a casino 24 hours a day. In other words, if you feel an urge to pick your nose or adjust your underwear, make sure you step outside first.

       After the chair finished his talk, he gave us a tour of the campus casino. Yes, CCSN had a casino on campus equipped with slot machines and all the table games you would find on the Strip, such as craps, roulette, blackjack, and baccarat. The chair told the new faculty members each to pick a table of their choice. A different gaming professor manned each table, ready to teach us the ins and outs of a particular game. I never had played any of them before.



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       The professor manning the roulette table launched the ball, and it spun round and round the wheel. It could stop on any number, I realized. The outcome was determined by the interaction of all sorts of unknown factors, like humidity, atmospheric pressure, imperfections on the surface of the ball and the wheel, and of course, the degree of force with which the ball was launched. Sort of like events in my life. I may launch myself on a particular trajectory, with a clear goal in mind, but factors beyond my control often send me spinning off to a different destination entirely. With these thoughts in mind, I approached the spinning wheel. I had launched myself into this new job, and like the ball on the roulette wheel, I had no idea where I finally would land.

      Thus, the final segment of my orientation to life as a tenure-track professor at CCSN was learning how to play roulette. I can’t say that I ever put this knowledge to much use. While living in Las Vegas, the only time I visited casinos was to frequent the movie theaters and restaurants located there. I think I may have dropped a quarter or two in a slot machine on a couple of occasions while waiting for my girlfriend to come out of the bathroom. But that was about it. It’s not that I found gambling to be morally repugnant. I was more than happy to collect a salary paid for with the proceeds from gaming taxes. No, I didn’t gamble because it seemed like a waste of time. After all, if the odds were in favor of the gambler, rather than the casino, the gaming industry would collapse, and Las Vegas would revert to sagebrush and tumbleweeds. As a former economics instructor, whenever I feel like gambling, I am more inclined to gamble on the stock market than the slot machine or the roulette wheel. As a human being, I am even more likely to bet on myself.

Read these exciting excerpts:   

New Faculty Orientation
The Stripper
Brunch with President Moore
Who You Are Speaks Louder Than Anything You Say

Teaching Amidst The Neon Palm Trees

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