By TRACEY COSME and SARAH GALZERANO
Crisis has hit the Boardwalk, leaving almost 8,000 people out of work and confused about where to go. The shutdowns of the Atlantic Club, the Showboat, Revel, and Trump Plaza Hotel & Casino have affected the Atlantic City area hard. If the effects ripple far enough, our regional economy may suffer as well. There’s also a strong possibility that the shutdowns may affect New Jersey’s tourism trade, real estate market, and tax base. If this happens, it will not only touch businesses in Atlantic City’s surrounding towns, but it will also begin to trickle-down to us.
Atlantic City, popular for its gaming/gambling venues, started the year with 12 casinos, and is now down to eight. The resort town that once boasted it was “stronger than the storm” is now falling like Pai Gow tiles. To recap how badly the situation has gotten; let’s remember the Atlantic Club shut down back in January, the Showboat on August 31st, Revel on September 2nd, and Trump Plaza on September 16th. To make matters worse, Trump Taj Mahal may be closing in November. If this happens it will increase the number of already displaced workers by another 3000+, and that’s not even taking into account the small businesses that rely solely on the casinos to keep them afloat.
For the unemployed casino workers, finding new jobs in the area will be almost impossible; because there are not a great deal of local jobs to be had. Rachel Lewis, district manager of a shore-based store, “Making Waves” is worried that “every Shore town under and above Atlantic City relies on tourism,” and that “fewer casinos means fewer hotels, which equates to fewer tourists at her stores.”
You may be asking yourself why you should care about something so tragic happening in a near-by shore-town. These laid-off employees, even though they would obviously prefer another casino job, are out on the prowl looking for employment. If we aren’t able to accommodate jobs for them, we will soon see the effects. How long will it be until our work hours are getting downsized, and our pay is getting cut? What can we, as a college, do to try to alleviate some of this burden?
According to Vicki Simek, Executive Director of CCC’s Workforce & Community Education office, “The educational and occupational levels of the dislocated workers will vary tremendously.” “Many of them will need additional training to prepare them for jobs outside of the casino industry, but we are currently working on those programs.” Additionally, she states, “The state of NJ is (in the process of) writing a National Emergency Grant or NEG, specifically for these workers and others who will lose jobs as a result of the “trickle down” effect. This funding is expected to be focused on “short-term skills” training, as opposed to college degrees.” However, the One-stop career centers will still offer state grant money for “on-demand” jobs requiring degrees, as long as it can be completed within one year.
CCC’s Workforce & Community Education office, which is primarily Cumberland county-based, is “…still in the process of gathering data,” Simek shares. Where “less than 20% of the affected workers have actually applied for unemployment benefits” partly because of experiencing what Simek terms “…a result of personal shock.” Simek also states, “Workforce & Community Education (office) will continue to work with our One-Stop partners to identify job titles and (to) assess the skills of these displaced workers. We will look for additional training opportunities that match workers skills that are in-demand…”
The New York Times reported that, to date, the NJ State Labor Department has planned eight job fairs to help displaced Showboat employees, and ironically the one that was attended the most focused strictly on finding replacement casino jobs.
During a recent briefing for ex-Showboat employees, it was strongly suggested that they drive 75 minutes away for their new careers, because casino gambling is on the rise in neighboring states such as, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New York. It should be noted that when Pennsylvania opened their slots-only casinos, four years ago, they bumped Atlantic City out of second place (behind Nevada) in annual gaming revenue. According to a September 23, 2014 article in The Washington Post, “Pennsylvania’s gross gaming revenue was $3.1 billion. Almost two-thirds of those winnings came from eastern Pennsylvania – (where) gamblers who otherwise would likely spend their money in AC.”
In an attempt to mend Atlantic City’s ailing economy, retail developments, residential developments, and expansions are being undergone. According to CNBC, “The Public Market, a 30,000 square foot indoor market that will feature local farmers, merchants and restaurants, is expected to break ground in downtown Atlantic City in late 2014.” Another store, expected to open in spring-2015, is a Best of Bass Pro shop. Casinos such as Tropicana, Borgata, Caesars Entertainment, and the Golden Nugget are all working on renovations.
Hopefully, this will offer viable job opportunities for those recently laid-off. If this happens, it will help CCC students, and Cumberland County residents as well, because there will be more jobs created.