the republic logo

Mass unemployment filing starts for thousands of laid-off Atlantic City casino workers

bug
Share/Save/Bookmark

ATLANTIC CITY, New Jersey — Carrying identification documents and bitterness over their sudden joblessness, hundreds of ex-casino workers began filing for unemployment Wednesday morning, the first attendees at an assistance center that expects to process 5,000 newly laid-off workers over the next three days.

The session at the Atlantic City Convention Center came after a brutal weekend that saw two casinos, the Showboat and Revel, close. Officials from the state Department of Labor and the main casino workers' union, Local 54 of Unite-HERE, helped displaced workers file for unemployment and gave them information on signing up for health insurance and other benefits.

By mid-September, Atlantic City, which started the year with 12 casinos, will be down to eight, and almost 8,000 people will be out of work. Trump Plaza is closing Sept. 16, and the Atlantic Club shut down in January.

About 300 workers were lined up when the doors opened at 9 a.m.; by early afternoon more than 750 had been processed.

"It's really depressing," said Dale Browne, who worked as a housekeeper at Showboat for 14 years. "People have mortgages, kids in school. We're afraid the crime rate is going to go up. I want to say we'll be all right down the road, but right now, it's rough."

Ruth Ann Joyce and her husband, Michael, were hired together as bartenders at Showboat when it opened in March 1987, and they raised a family on their casino jobs.

"We made good money. We had great benefits. We worked hard and we were rewarded for it," she said. "For the past 27 years, we had the American dream. This closing is a tragedy, and it didn't have to happen."

The state Department of Labor had 40 workers helping applicants register for unemployment and connect with job search resources. Other social service agencies helped enroll them for health insurance and food assistance.

PHOTO: People wait in line to sign up for unemployment Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2014, in Atlantic City, N.J. Thousands of newly laid-off casino workers turned out at the Atlantic City Convention Center for a mass unemployment filing. The session Wednesday morning comes after a brutal weekend that saw more than 5,000 employees at the Showboat and Revel lose their jobs. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
People wait in line to sign up for unemployment Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2014, in Atlantic City, N.J. Thousands of newly laid-off casino workers turned out at the Atlantic City Convention Center for a mass unemployment filing. The session Wednesday morning comes after a brutal weekend that saw more than 5,000 employees at the Showboat and Revel lose their jobs. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

"They don't want to collect unemployment," said Bob McDevitt, Local 54's president. "They just want to get to their next job."

Helpers assisted people in English, Spanish, Gujarati, Bangla, Hindi, Mandarin and Cantonese Chinese, Vietnamese and Creole.

A union volunteer helped a laid-off Revel dealer navigate the computer application for unemployment, verifying his personal information and work history, his eligibility status and calculating how much he made between salary and tips on his last few days at work. The dealer opted to have his unemployment benefits taxed from each check rather than paying a lump sum tax himself in April.

Other workers discussed the possibility of early retirements with counselors. In a separate room, others signed up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. Tables offered help with food stamps, too.

The casino consolidation buffeting Atlantic City is a reaction to the ever-increasing competition from casinos in neighboring states, including Pennsylvania, New York, Maryland and Connecticut. Atlantic City's casino revenue has fallen from a high of $5.2 billion in 2006, when the first Pennsylvania casino opened, to $2.86 billion last year.

Casino analysts and industry executives say the closings are a needed correction to an oversaturated market and predict that the remaining eight casinos will do better financially with less competition.

But big-picture economics was not on the minds of those who turned out for the unemployment session Wednesday. Ronnie Downing, a laid-off Revel worker, said he and his co-workers were shocked when it closed.

"Many of us, myself included, haven't figured out what we're going to do next," he said.


Wayne Parry can be reached at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC

Think your friends should see this? Share it with them!

Story copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Feedback, Corrections and Other Requests: AP welcomes feedback and comments from readers. Send an email to info@ap.org and it will be forwarded to the appropriate editor or reporter.


Video:
PHOTO: Opened in 2012, Revel was supposed to breathe new life into Atlantic City's stagnant economy, but instead the casino, along with two others, is closing, leaving many to question what's next for the city once known as America's playground. (Sept. 2)
Opened in 2012, Revel was supposed to breathe new life into Atlantic City's stagnant economy, but instead the casino, along with two others, is closing, leaving many to question what's next for the city once known as America's playground. (Sept. 2)
Photo Gallery:
PHOTO: People sign up for unemployment and other benefits Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2014, in Atlantic City, N.J. Thousands of newly laid-off casino workers turned out at the Atlantic City Convention Center for a mass unemployment filing. The session Wednesday morning comes after a brutal weekend that saw more than 5,000 employees at the Showboat and Revel lose their jobs. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
Click to view (12 Photos)
We also have more stories about:
(click the phrases to see a list)

Category:

Follow The Republic:

All content copyright ©2014 The Republic, a division of Home News Enterprises unless otherwise noted.
All rights reserved. Privacy policy.