I’m a good tipper, having grown up in Las Vegas, where tips (called “tokes” there, as in “tokens of appreciation”) are the lifeblood of people working in the gaming industry, a broad swath of hotel employees ranging from car parkers and pool boys to card dealers and showroom concierges. And everyone in the complimentary food service-bartending business. A steady stream of good tips in Vegas is the difference between living a middle-class life with a mortgaged home and road-reliant car and living on the edge of the desert in a dingy, weekly-rental motel and taking public transportation to your shift job on The Strip.

It’s not so different in Maine, where the whole tipping-versus-higher minimum wage debate tends to be at the expense of hardworking people who deserve a decent life. The debate can get complicated (see the federal government’s tip-pooling proposal). The fundamental issue, however, is straightforwardly simple. Wait staff and bartenders should be well paid for their labors. They work hard. They are critical to our service economy. They are some of the lowest-compensated working people in the country. And many of them are single parents supporting young children.

My tip-enhanced summer jobs as a lifeguard/pool boy at Caesars Palace and the Frontier Hotel helped pay my college expenses. I once got a $100 tip from Michael Landon of “Bonanza” and “Little House on the Prairie” fame for setting up his family’s poolside lounge chairs during their weeklong stay at Caesars. I had to split this largesse with my fellow pool boys, but at the time (the late 1960s), that tip felt like a small fortune.

Vegas being Vegas, there were extreme situations. Valet car parkers took in as much money in tips as managers of small hedge funds make today. These jobs at the major hotels were basically sinecures, passed down from generation to generation. The mobbed-up-looking kid with slicked-back hair who parked your dented Dodge Dart and took your money often drove home at the end of his shift in a brand-new, customized Shelby Ford Mustang GT.

A big winner at the gaming tables would often tip the dealers or croupiers hundreds of dollars for their highly profitable run of luck, pulling a statistically improbable spate of good card hands or throwing a series of winning dice combinations. (The hotels always won the money back, and more. Vegas hotels are built on the backs of losers, big and small.)

So, good tipping became an ingrained habit. The grease that lubricated the machine. It got you a better seat to see Elvis or Barbra Streisand. A poolside lounge chair with shade. A more attentive cocktail waitress. A dealer who didn’t sneer at you. Your car back in one piece.

While all that seems far removed from Maine’s service industry, the same principle applies: Until wait staff are paid well, tips make all the difference. The ad slogan says: “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.” Well, what happens in Maine – good tips for good service – should stay in Maine, too.