If you believe Hollywood's take on Las Vegas, you might assume that women are barely part of the story in Sin City. University of Nevada professors Susan Chandler and Jill B. Jones finally set the record straight in Casino Women, which illustrates the importance of females in the gaming industry. The authors do an excellent job of recounting the plight of cleaners, cocktail waitresses, dealers, managers, and even executives. Chandler and Jones make it abundantly clear that women are beyond instrumental to the city's success. With stories that are troubling but also empowering, Casino Women is a worthwhile read for anyone interested in gambling, feminism, or the lives of the working class.
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. Fortunately, Casino Women looks well set to buck this trend.
Susan Chandler and Jill B. Jones, two professors at the University of Nevada, penned this book with the desire to not only fill the void, but also to provide inspiration for others. They manage this by interviewing women working in the casino industry with female cleaners, waitresses, and dealers all having their say.
While some might assume that the subject matter of Casino Women borders on the mundane, we actually found many of the personal experiences shared fascinating. Regardless of the gender of the teller, the stories provided an insight into the aspects of casinos that definitely aren’t in the brochure.
Beginning with the more working class of Nevada’s female workforce, Chandler and Jones speak to cleaners and housekeepers who have worked for many years on low wages. The picture painted by these interviews is of a large struggle with many cleaners ending up with chronic injuries from their labour. Next, cocktail waitresses are the subject of attention with plenty of stories of women doing it ‘just for the money’, as well as unfortunate injuries occurred during work.
While reading the section on waitresses it becomes apparent, as it does with many dealers and middle-managers later on in the book, that they’ve ended up doing what they’re doing out of necessity rather than choice. This combined with the harsh working conditions that many have to deal with provides Casino Women with a rather sombre tone.
While this may not be what you might hope for in a book, the tone is required in order to set the scene for some of the more uplifting passages. As the book's subtitle of Courage in Unexpected Places suggests, there are areas of inspiration with the creation of workers' unions and some personal triumphs proving quite encouraging.
However, 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. While this is highly commendable and Casino Women is sure to be effective in achieving this, it doesn’t necessarily make for positive reading.
Despite this, many of the tales included are certainly fascinating and provide an intriguing insight to an area hardly ever spoken about. For those looking to see a different side of casino life, Casino Women is ideal for you.