Is a “Dealer Add-On” a Tip or a House Fee?

Poker dealers are paid a low hourly wage; they make most of their money from gratuities (tips) from players. Those tips are, of course, taxable. In a poker tournament, dealers also receive tips. Some come from the prize pool while some come from the players themselves when they win or place high in the tournament. Some tournaments offer players a “Dealer Add-On.” The Dealer Add-On costs players a small fee–say, $5 to $50. In return, the player receives an additional amount of tournament chips.

Clearly, a dealer who receives a portion of that add-on must report it as income; all income is taxable unless exempted by Congress, and such Dealer Add-Ons haven’t been exempted. However, there’s a dispute in Florida as to whether the Dealer Add-On is considered income to the casino.

The Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering (which regulates non-Indian casinos in the state) now says the money is income to the casino, and tax must be paid to the state on it. Until this July, Florida said that Dealer Add-Ons were not income to the casino. The Isle Casino in Pompano Beach, Florida has sued the state charging the rule is, “an invalid exercise of delegated legislative authority.”

Given that Dealer Add-Ons are small compared to the other income that a casino brings in, this dispute will have a minor impact on the casinos. However, it could cause an increase in the fees that a casino charges for running tournaments; that could negatively impact poker tournaments.

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