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SkyCity casino denies entry to a cancer patient (due their strict dress code)

Published on October 25, 2014, 4:32 pm

by Jeff Grant Twitter account Jeff Grant LinkedIn account

Mrs. Bridget Wheeler
Mrs. Bridget Wheeler

Some casinos have dress codes which they whole-heartedly enforce. An Australian woman recovering from breast cancer found that out the hard way when she recently tried to enter a casino with a hat on her head. The woman wore the hat because she is currently undergoing chemotherapy and does not have any hair.

At the entrance of SkyCity in Hamilton, New Zealand, casino officials told Bridget Wheeler she would have to remove her hat in order to enter. Hats go against the facility's dress code, they told her. Wheeler explained that she had lost all of her hair due to cancer treatment and asked if she could continue wearing the hat for medical reasons. The officials told her no.

If Wheeler had been able to produce a note from her doctor explaining the issue, SkyCity officials said they would have let the woman in with her hat on. Because she did not have such a letter, however, they would not make an exception for the cancer patient. Wheeler expressed shock at this policy, saying her hat had never been a problem at any other establishment. She told reporters that she felt embarrassed and deeply hurt by the incident.

The Reason Behind “No Hats Allowed”

SkyCity officials explained that their security officials need to monitor the activity of all patrons through cameras positioned above the gambling floor. If a patron wears a hat, the cameras are unable to zero in on that person's face, and the security of the establishment is compromised. In this particular case, the SkyCity casino would have made an exception if the patron had produced a doctor's note. The patron's word alone was not enough, apparently, for her to be granted immunity from the "no hat" rule.

Dress Codes in Other Regions of the World

Casino dress codes vary across the globe. Some regions are more strict about what their patrons wear, and others are more relaxed. Here is a generalized breakdown of dress code rules and expectations in three of the world's most popular gambling regions: the UK, US, and Macau.

Most casinos in the UK, forbid both men and women to wear hats. Other “off limits” items include sunglasses, jogging pants, and long raincoats, which must be left in the coat room. Women may not wear bathing suits in combination with other clothing, nor may they wear cut-off jeans, veils, or burkas. Men may not wear T-shirts, shorts, or sandals. Jeans are permitted only if they are in decent condition.

In the US, by contrast, the casino dress code is generally quite relaxed. Patrons have been known to wear T-shirts, shorts, bathing suits, and even bathrobes on the casino floor. Hats and sunglasses are generally allowed, too, although guests wishing to follow the rules of “etiquette” might consider taking them off. Exceptions exist to this generalization, however, and high roller rooms often impose stricter dress codes on their visitors.

The dress code in Macau falls somewhere in between that of the UK and US in terms of strictness. The code in the Asian gambling mecca was once more strict, but rules have relaxed over time. If any type of dress would be forbidden in Macau, it would be flip flops, shorts, and sleeveless shirts, both for men and women. The rules have relaxed so much, however, that this may prove not to be an issue for current visitors. As a general rule, Asian gamblers dress “business casual” while gambling as a matter of preference, though this is not a requirement.

Dress code requirements at SkyCity Casino, Hamilton
The dress code requirements of the SkyCity Casino, Hamilton

Casino Etiquette Rules from the New York Times

People who aren't used to gambling in American casinos can find the experience a bit overwhelming. For this reason, the New York Times recently composed a list of general etiquette rules for American casinos. Here's a summary of what the Times reported:

  • All gamblers must be of legal gambling age, which is 21 in the states.
  • Children are not permitted in casinos. If a guest tries to gamble with a child by his/her side, a casino official will intervene and ask the guest to leave.
  • Children are allowed to walk through a casino, and they are allowed to eat at casino restaurants if accompanied by an adult.
  • The use of cell phones and other electronics is discouraged in casinos. Most devices won't be able to receive a signal inside the thick walls of a casino, anyway.
  • In casinos with a sports betting area, the use of phones and pagers is monitored closely. It is wise not to even try to use such devices in these areas.
  • Casinos are crowded places. Guests should be vigilant about watching their purses, wallets, and chip collections. Leaving any of these items unattended is a bad idea.
  • Security guards are available to escort guests to their cars, and guests should not hesitate to ask for this service, especially after dark.
  • During busier hours, novice table game players might have a harder time getting the help they need from table dealers. Newer players should practice their skills during non-peak hours, at least when they first start out.
  • Las Vegas casinos are busiest late at night. They are not as busy in the mornings. Guests should time their visits accordingly.
  • Dealers are often paid minimum wage, and they rely on tips for their income. Tipping a dealer is not required, but it is a nice thing to do. When a guest is winning, it is good etiquette to tip the dealer.
  • A player can tip a dealer by giving him/her a chip.
  • Some dealers suggest a tip of 10 percent, but the Times felt this to be overly generous. Guests can use their discretion when making tipping decisions.

When it comes to gambling dress codes and etiquette, there's a lot to learn, and some patrons know more than others. In the case of Bridget Wheeler, the rules of etiquette at a New Zealand casino brought her some unfortunate humiliation. Casino guests are wise to familiarize themselves with the etiquette rules before their visit to minimize such discomfort.


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