Two of Atlantic City’s casinos, the Revel and the Showboat, closed down this past weekend, bring the total closures to three this year.
Five thousand people lost their jobs, and a fourth casino – Trump Plaza – will shut down in two weeks.
“We’re trying to ease the blow,” says Ben Begleiter, an analyst with UNITE HERE Local 54, the union which represents many casino workers in Atlantic City. The union booked the convention center to get resources to people laid off. “We want to make sure that people have unemployment benefits, health benefits, utility and food assistance.”
Atlantic City is experiencing something that many cities have experienced before it. It hitched itself to a star, and that star faded.
“Atlantic City was predicated on being an east coast monopoly in the casino industry now there’s no monopolies any place,” says James Hughes, dean of the school of planning and public policy at Rutgers University.
All the neighboring states have casinos now, allowing those states to retain their own gamblers and poach some of New Jersey’s.
Despite that, Atlantic City still draws millions of visitors and some of its casinos are still quite profitable. But, says Hughes, “it’s going to have a permanently smaller economy.”
Gambling revenue is still half what it was in 2006.
“The big question is what Atlantic City does in the future to rebuild and diversify,” says Oliver Cooke, professor of economics at Stockton College. “There’s a whole countless litany of proposals that have been put forward,” he says, from expanding resort offerings to making the city a concert destination.
The future of Atlantic City will be the topic of a forum hosted by Governor Chris Christie, on Sept. 8.