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Casino workers struggle in reversal of fortune

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By Reuters
Saturday, July 12, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Nineteen years into working as a cook at Atlantic City's Showboat Casino, Dave Rose is counting the weeks until he and about 2,000 workers lose their jobs when the casino is shuttered at the end of the summer.

The Showboat will be the second major casino to close in this struggling New Jersey shore city this year, a trend that has tourism officials talking about revamping the aging gambling Mecca to broaden its appeal beyond bachelor parties and bus loads of retirees, with more family-friendly attractions.

“They've been saying that for 10 years,” said Rose, who holds out little hope of that strategy working and fears he will have a hard time finding a job that matches the $18.18 per hour he earns at the Showboat.

“There aren't too many good-paying jobs out there,” he said. The unemployment rate in the city stood at 10.3 percent in May, among the highest of any major metropolitan area and well above the national rate, which was at 6.3 percent in May, and has since fallen to 6.1 percent in June.

Atlantic City, which once held a lucrative East Coast gambling monopoly, has fallen hard. Gaming revenue has fallen to $2.8 billion, a little more than half its 2006 peak of $5.2 billion.

The decline reflects the opening of new casinos in the northeastern United States in recent years: New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and Connecticut have casinos and Massachusetts is in the process of awarding licenses.

One of the main questions for officials and workers in Atlantic City is, when Caesars Entertainment Corp. pulls the plug on the Showboat on Aug. 31, how many of the city's remaining 10 casinos will survive.

The Revel casino and resort, which was a centerpiece of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's effort to bring Las Vegas-quality gambling to Atlantic City's declining gaming business when it opened in April 2012, last month filed for bankruptcy for the second time.

The casino, which employs 3,140 workers and is losing $2 million a week even in the peak summer season, is trying to line up a buyer. If it doesn't find one in the next few weeks, it plans to close.

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