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Transcript of interview with Victor Givens by LeGary Stowers, March 15, 1981






On March 15, 1981, LeGary Stowers interviewed Victor Givens (born 1958 in Las Vegas, Nevada) about his profession in the gaming industry, specifically as a table games dealer. Givens first talks about his family background and then talks about his educational, occupational, and residential histories. He then talks about the various qualities required of individuals who work in the casino industry, his beliefs regarding religion and gambling, and some of the motivations and goals that are present for those within the field of gaming.

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Givens, Victor Interview, 1981 March 15. OH-00688. [Transcript.] Oral History Research Center, Special Collections & Archives, University Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Las Vegas, Nevada.


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UNLV University Libraries Victor Givens 1 An Interview with Victor Givens An Oral History Conducted by LeGary Stowers Ralph Roske Oral History Project on Early Las Vegas Special Collections and Archives Oral History Research Center University Libraries University of Nevada, Las Vegas UNLV University Libraries Victor Givens 2 © Ralph Roske Oral History Project on Early Las Vegas University of Nevada, Las Vegas, 2018 UNLV University Libraries Victor Givens 3 The Oral History Research Center (OHRC) was formally established by the Board of Regents of the University of Nevada System in September 2003 as an entity of the UNLV University Libraries’ Special Collections Division. The OHRC conducts oral interviews with individuals who are selected for their ability to provide first-hand observations on a variety of historical topics in Las Vegas and Southern Nevada. The OHRC is also home to legacy oral history interviews conducted prior to its establishment including many conducted by UNLV History Professor Ralph Roske and his students. This legacy interview transcript received minimal editing, such as the elimination of fragments, false starts, and repetitions in order to enhance the reader's understanding of the material. All measures have been taken to preserve the style and language of the narrator. The interviewee/narrator was not involved in the editing process. UNLV University Libraries Victor Givens 4 Abstract On March 15, 1981, LeGary Stowers interviewed Victor Givens (born 1958 in Las Vegas, Nevada) about his profession in the gaming industry, specifically as a table games dealer. Givens first talks about his family background and then talks about his educational, occupational, and residential histories. He then talks about the various qualities required of individuals who work in the casino industry, his beliefs regarding religion and gambling, and some of the motivations and goals that are present for those within the field of gaming. UNLV University Libraries Victor Givens 5 Here today with Mr. Victor Givens of the El Cortez Hotel and Casino to discuss the life and times of a casino dealer. Mr. Givens, what is your name and present address? My full name is Victor Larae Givens. My address is 412 Monroe, Las Vegas, Nevada. Where are you from and when were you born? I was born in Las Vegas, Nevada in 1958, May 30th. Mr. Givens, could you give me the name of your family members? My father’s name is Melvin (unintelligible) Givens II. The mother’s name is Alma Jean Givens; her maiden name is Alma Jean (unintelligible). My first brother’s name is Melvin (unintelligible) Givens III, there’s Donny Givens, Clyde Carson Givens, Victor Larae Givens—me of course—Yvonne Rene Givens, (unintelligible) Givens, and (unintelligible) Givens, and these are my family members who I love very much. Mr. Givens, could you give me a little history of your family background? Well, my mother is originally from Little Rock, Arkansas; just about the whole side of her family is from Little Rock, Arkansas, around the Arkansas area. My father is from Houston, Texas. His father is from, I think it’s Irving, Texas—home of the Dallas Cowboys. What is your ethnic ancestry? I’m a Black American, African descent. Mr. Givens, what is your educational background, and could you give me the qualifications for your profession? Well, I started school as a youngster at Lois Craig Elementary School, then later went on to K.O. Knutson Junior High School, Valley High School, received honors at Valley High School, and later went on to the University of Nevada, Las Vegas for two years. And I also have had some training in vocational (unintelligible)—went to the Las Vegas School of Dealing for UNLV University Libraries Victor Givens 6 approximately two-and-a-half months, studied to be a craps dealer, studied to be aware of things that happen within a casino on table games. Mr. Givens, what is your present residence? I now live in Las Vegas, Nevada, but I eventually hope to move on to California or somewhere up in the Washington/Seattle area. Could you give me a history of the occupations that you have had? Well, starting when I was real young, I worked as a maintenance worker at K.O. Knutson Junior High School. I later went on to work with the Las Vegas City Parks and Recreation Department. I also worked with the Clark County Parks and Recreation for five years. I later worked within the hotel industry as a casino porter for a number of months. I worked for two years with the Clark County Juvenile Court Services as a Protective Services Case Aide for two-and-a-half years. I also did some volunteer work with different community groups within the community. What awards or honors do you have? Well, I received my Child Guidance Certificate from the Juvenile Courts Services, I received a number of certificates from the Boys Clubs of America, I was honored as the Boy of the Month when I was a youngster. You know, things like baseball, most improved player on the baseball team, I played baseball when I was youngster—a number of other honors, but at this time, I presently can’t name them. Okay. Mr. Givens, what kind of achievement or advancement have you made in your profession? I started off in the hotel industry as a casino porter. Through talking to other casino employees, I found out that you can occupy yourself with a better way of life by going through school, a vocational school, to enhance your career. I feel as if that a person can enhance his career by UNLV University Libraries Victor Givens 7 improving upon his game on—when I mean games, I mean by table games—that there’s room for improvement or advancement. There is a place for you inside of a casino. There are other positions that you can be promoted to, such as a floor man, box man, pit boss, vice president, assistant general manager, manager, on up to the president, or possibly you may eventually own your own hotel, depending upon the type of person that you are. Does anyone have any kind of special skills or interests to work in your profession? No, not necessarily. I don’t think that an individual has to have any type of special skills or interests, but I do think that you must have an interest or a desire to be a professional craps dealer, blackjack dealer, baccarat dealer, or roulette dealer. You have to have an ability to deal with people, to communicate with people, an ability, or let’s say, an interest in people to be a good professional dealer. I think that it should be mandatory that one should realize that you were in a business involved of people from the different walks of life, and that these people come to Las Vegas for a service to be rendered by you, is something that you should take pride in, is something that you should look upon as a way of life for you. It should be something that you, as a person, should look up to and say, “I have something to offer, and what I have to offer is here for me to give to the presence of me dealing the different table games to you. I want to be able to provide that service to you so that you can have, what we call in Las Vegas, an exciting time and an illustrious time.” We, here in Las Vegas, have a motto that says that we are the entertainment capital of the world, and being that that motto stands for us, we have to live up to a certain image and deliver a certain service to our customers to please them so that they will come back to the casino and want to have a good time there, want to go to the shows, want to spend some time at the bars, as well as spend time on the tables. We also want them to come here and feel relaxed, to feel relaxed not individually but as a family, to feel comfortably within an environment that is UNLV University Libraries Victor Givens 8 totally fast, outgoing—not so much as outgoing to where it can hurt someone, but outgoing to the fact that you are enjoying yourself. You are doing the things that you want to do, you are getting away from the (unintelligible) of your job and your city, the pressures of a job, you know, those kinds of things that one has in this work environment. And there’s also family problems, you know, things like that, little family hassles, quarrels, you know. Okay. Mr. Givens, are you involved in church groups or any other organization, group, or activity? Well, I’m presently involved in the Church of God and Christ. I’m not an active member of the church, but I do go to church whenever I have the time to do so. I happen to believe in God Almighty. The funny thing about what you asked is, people look at gaming as a sin, whereas I have a different viewpoint than that. I think of gaming, not as a sin, but as something that one does during his leisure. It is something that one does during his free time, it is something that one does for fun, one does for, you could say, kicks, if you want to, if you want to use that word, good times, you know, things of that nature. But I don’t look at gaming as a sin; it’s just something the people do, people enjoy. It’s just another activity that is involved (unintelligible) human being. It’s something that is not indebted inside of our minds; it’s something that comes naturally—life itself is a gamble, so why shouldn’t I take a little time off myself to leave my home, leave my job, and just go out and do the things that I want to do, just to relax myself and to enjoy myself with my family, because I do everything for my family—my job is my family. I love my family to the point to where I have to do the things that I wanted to do in order to be happy. Life itself is all about providing for your family, and providing for my family is one of my goals, my aspirations. It’s something that I feel is not why we thought about a lot of people within the industry, but, I mean, there’s different ways of things about things, you know. People UNLV University Libraries Victor Givens 9 are people, and I am I, and I’m gonna live my life the way I want to live it without what other people say. But the thing is that you have to understand that the gaming industry is a tough industry; people who are considered notorious or (unintelligible) influential to the gaming industry or restricted from my industry, and we don’t like the bad reputations of an individual who comes. You know, like, everybody thinks of Las Vegas as prostitution, prostitutes, hookers, whatever you want to call them—you know, Sin City of the world, some of the other quotes that you hear around the city about our town, but you have to accept Las Vegas for what Las Vegas is. You are more than another way of life. Okay. Mr. Givens, what kind of motivation, aspirations, or goals must one have to remain in your profession? In order to be a professional craps dealer, blackjack dealer, what have you, in the gaming industry, you have to realize that you are dealing with people who are, let’s say, coming here to spend their time, spend their money, to have a good time. And you have to realize that those people are going to have drinks, drugs, anything that you can name, and you must be able to deal with that as a person. You have to adapt as a person to the environment that you’re working in or the condition that you’re working in. You have to set out your goals to meet your demands for yourself, for your family, or, let’s say for your own personal habits. It shouldn’t be something that you take for granted. This is a serious business and a serious game. But if you’re going to be the type of professional that you want to be, I would advise that you keep up your attitude, straighten up your head, greet the people like the people want to be greeted, and you’ll get along just fine within the gaming industry. But more importantly than anything else, I would say that you would have to love the industry to be in the industry. You have to feel the environment; don’t just live the environment, but feel the environment—feel what people are saying to you, UNLV University Libraries Victor Givens 10 feel what the condition of the environment is surrounding you. Think of that environment as your home, treat it as if you were treating your own family members; be kind, be generous, forgiving, and understanding—more importantly, understanding, because at time things get a little hectic in the casino, we all know, but like I say before, it’s you who’s going to be the determining factor on how well the casino is run. You’re the employee on exactly how well the casino is run, depends upon you—how well your service is depends upon you. If the service is there, the people will be there. You have to think of yourself, the business, the environment as the biggest thing in your life. You have to say to yourself that, “This is what I want, this is what I want to do, this is what I’m gonna do.” It’s a good attitude to have, a very positive attitude—there’s nothing negative about it—and I’m pretty sure that you will be treated very gracefully by your fellow bosses and employees as a nice person, which is what you want to be recognized as, as a nice person, a respectable person—a person with (unintelligible) reputation. You want to be the kind of individual that your bosses can look up to and say, “Hey, here’s a guy who’s been here for three or four years, and he’s done a decent job.” Now, he wants to send you to the Strip. The Strip is what is considered by all dealers to the professionals of all professional jobs; that’s where the big time is. That’s where all the money is made. That’s where you as a dealer should set your goal to be, to be a Strip employee at one of the gaming industries, hotels out there. You should always set your goals to accomplish and to improve so that you can be accepted as a professional dealer on the Las Vegas Strip, one of the most popular spots in the world. That’s what I look forward to, and that’s what I hope that every dealer would look forward to is to deal at place like the MGM Grand, the Flamingo Hilton Hotel, Caesars World, places like the Sands Hotel, Dunes Hotel, places like, somewhere where you can really look up to yourself and say, “I have UNLV University Libraries Victor Givens 11 accomplished something. I have done something that pleases me and pleases my family to the point to where I can live comfortably in society.” How do you like your profession? Well, I can say, and I can say it honestly, ‘cause I love my profession as a casino dealer. There are a lot of good benefits to being a casino dealer. There is a lot of things that you experience inside of a casino. You are dealing with a lot of people, and whenever you’re dealing with people, you always have an involvement. What I mean by involvement is that you always have some kind of reaction going, some kind of feedback or communication going. You’re developing or cultivating an environment that is positive, fun, exciting, illustrious for the hotel business. We are showing an image that is very positive and direct for the casino business. We also are showing the world that Las Vegas, quote/unquote, Sin City of the world. I mean, we are people just like everyone else, and we have ups and downs just like anybody else in the world. But most of all, we live happy just like everybody else does. Mr. Givens, what else could you tell me about the gambling business? Well, there are a lot of things that you can talk about in the gaming industry. I would say that the most important thing to remember about working a casino area or a casino is that you are providing a service. And the service shouldn’t be something that is looked upon as negative or derogatory or sinful; it should be something that you as a person should be proud of, you should love it, you should think of the business itself as an adventure—something that someone does for their leisure or free time. The same thing applies to recreation. Recreation is something that we do in our leisure time, so why not the same for gaming? There are all type of people who venture to Las Vegas just to see the city of Las Vegas and to involve themselves within the gaming business. You should always remember that it is upon you to render that service and provide a UNLV University Libraries Victor Givens 12 happening for those individuals who come here. The gaming business is a good business, a very popular business. But it’s you as an employee who is going to make the business. Mr. Stowers, one thing that you have to remember about the gaming industry is that you are going to be walking upon a lot of people with different personalities, different ways in which they handle themselves in life, and these are the type of people that you have to deal with within the casino. These are the kinds of people that you have to provide a service. Now, earlier, you had asked me a question that was regarding what kind of education background do I have and what kind of qualifications do you have. As far as qualifications go, just like any other business in the different walks of life, the gaming business receives people from all kinds of walks of life also. I mean, we may have a casino porter here or juvenile court officer, police officer, maybe even a retired judge working within the casino as a gaming employee. And this is something that has to be worked out within the casino business through the personnel, administration officers, pit bosses, box men—it has to be something that is congruent or together filling a family-type atmosphere. It has to be something that is for the casino itself and nothing but the casino. On behalf of UNLV Oral History Project, I thank you for your time and effort, Mr. Givens. Thank you.