Violetta Vasileva knew from the moment she first stepped into a casino in New Westminster, BC, that this was the sort of place where she would love to work. She has been a casino cashier for almost seven years, and the job remains as appealing as ever.
“I am bad at games. I can’t play cards and never gambled in my life,” says Vasileva. She and her husband, both of whom having immigrated from Eastern Europe, decided on a whim in the autumn of 2002 to take in the Oktoberfest celebrations at New Westminster Quay, where a floating casino was then moored. “When I walked inside, it was the first time I had ever been in a real big casino,” she says. “The atmosphere, the friendliness, the smiles of both the people working there and the customers — I thought it was all fascinating. I thought this would be a place I would want to work.”
Vasileva, a high school music teacher in her native Bulgaria, got her first job in Canada at a local McDonald’s, where she worked on improving her customer-service and English-language skills. At the same time, she worked diligently at her ultimate goal, applying at the various Vancouver-area casinos. In 2005, she was hired by Gateway Casinos & Entertainment as a cashier at the Grand Villa Casino Hotel & Conference Centre in Burnaby, and has been there ever since.
Vasileva spends her shift behind one of two cashier cages; the ground-floor location caters to table games players, while the upstairs desk services customers playing the slot machines. As a cashier, she deals directly with guests — a combination of regulars and newcomers, — and slot attendants, who are responsible for handling large jackpots that require verification of information on a computer within her work station. The job, she says, calls on a range of skills. “It would be good to have customer-service training or experience. You need quick and accurate mathematical aptitude, because we’re dealing with thousands of dollars every day. Computer skills, too, because we work with a computer as much as we work with money. And you need people skills, an extremely positive attitude, [ability] to work under pressure and be good at multitasking.”
Of them all, she rates people skills as the most important. “To be a good cashier, you have to have really great people skills. You need to have the ability to understand people and be compassionate when they are unhappy, and be happy when they’re happy.”
Tips, though rare, are always shared with her fellow cashiers. She once received $500 from a delighted winner, although she insists, “tipping isn’t the point. Many of the customers come from tables or slot machines and have already tipped the dealer, so we are the last people in the casino they see, and they feel they have already shared their good luck.”
The fact that Vasileva might be the first employee a customer deals with, or the last person that customer sees on their way out, comes with significant responsibilities. Whether she’s making change, handling jackpots, or simply directing guests to the restaurant or the restrooms, she never forgets the impact she has on the overall guest experience. “People come to the casino to have a good time, and that requires great customer service and friendliness. Every day I hear the same question, ‘Why are you so happy?’ Well, I believe that happiness, the smile, makes a difference in everybody’s life.”