Atlantic City Workers Stunned As Casino Economy Begins to Crash

by Bruce Vail

Facing stiff competition from other states who have legalized gambling, Atlantic City casinos such as Trump Plaza (pictured) plan to close, laying off thousands of workers.   Doug Kerr / / Creative Commons

Facing stiff competition from other states who have legalized gambling, Atlantic City casinos such as Trump Plaza (pictured) plan to close, laying off thousands of workers. Doug Kerr / / Creative Commons

More than 1,000 workers at Atlantic City’s Trump Plaza received notices July 14 that the hotel-casino planned to close its doors in just 65 days, eliminating all of their jobs. The news was not unexpected, though that fact doesn’t make it any easier to handle for the workers whose livelihoods depend on a local gambling economy in danger of an historic crash.

“It’s not surprising. A lot of people knew that eventually a shakeout would come,” says James Karmel, an author, college professor and consultant who has studied Atlantic City closely. The city’s gambling industry “is just not sustainable in its current form,” he says, mainly because newer casinos in Pennsylvania, New York, Maryland and elsewhere are luring New Jersey’s gambling customers away. Total annual gaming revenue has crashed, Karmel says, from an all-time peak of $5.2 billion in 2006 to $2.9 billion last year.

Indeed, the Trump Plaza is not the first local casino to close due to the crash, nor is it expected to be the last. Early this year, the Atlantic Club Casino Hotel closed, resulting in the loss of 1,600 jobs. Caesars Entertainment Corporation-owned Showboat Atlantic City has already announced that it expects to close Aug. 31, eliminating the jobs of another 2,100 workers. And the Revel Casino Hotel, currently employing about 3,000 workers, is currently in bankruptcy court, and is said to be in danger of closing before the end of the year.

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Philadelphians Stage ‘Sip-In’ To Support Casino Workers

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On April 2, supporters of SugarHouse workers stage a ‘sip-in’ at one of the eateries in the massive casino. (Photo by Jini Kades)

Philadelphia’s SugarHouse Casino opened almost four years ago. Unite Here Local 54’s campaign to unionize workers there is almost as old. And at the end of the month, after a history of reported union-busting activity that includes alleged retaliatory firings, SugarHouse will face its first National Labor Relations Board hearing. According to the complaint filed with the NLRB, a manager stopped a few workers from handing out union literature, crumpled it up and threw it away, also known as “interfering with, restraining and coercing employees in the exercise of rights.”

On April 2, in response to the increasingly tense work environment, union members, staffers and a variety of concerned Philadelphians came together to organize a “sip-in” at SugarHouse. Continue reading