| ATLANTIC CITY, N.J., Sept 3
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J., Sept 3 The closing of
Atlantic City's Revel casino has caused a rush of people signing
up for unemployment benefits, with around 500 people lining up
at a temporary resource center Wednesday morning.
Around 8,300 people are losing jobs with three casinos
closing in less than a month - Showboat, a Caesars Entertainment
Corp property, closed Sunday morning, Revel closed early
on Tuesday morning and Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino is due to
close on Sept. 16.
"You have to take the ups with the downs, and you have faith
in God," said 49-year-old Irene Seda, who was waiting to claim
benefits after being laid off as a card dealer when Revel shut
Hundreds more are expected in the coming days at the center
in Atlantic City organized by Unite-HERE's Local 54 labor union
with state and local officials.
Atlantic County, which includes Atlantic City, saw the
biggest nonfarm employment drop of all U.S. metropolitan areas
in July compared with the same time last year, preliminary U.S.
Labor Department data showed last week.
The latest layoffs will not hit official job counts until at
least October. Increased competition from casinos in neighboring
states has walloped the gambling industry here.
However, officials say the state's unemployment insurance
trust fund can handle the swell of new claims.
During the recession, many states borrowed from the federal
government to pay an influx of jobless claims. New Jersey was
among them, but its fund began recovering last year and became
solvent on May 1.
New Jersey had $610.1 million on Wednesday to pay out
benefits, which are limited to 26 weeks per worker, state Labor
Department spokesman Brian Murray said.
"No one can accurately estimate at this point what the
financial impact of the casino closings in Atlantic City will be
on the trust fund," he said. "We do anticipate the fund will
remain in the black."
The city itself has a tougher road ahead. Its property tax
base is likely to bottom out at $7.5 billion in coming years,
Mayor Don Guardian said. That is down from $20.5 billion in
To make up the difference, the average Atlantic City
homeowner has seen the total tax rate rise by 85 percent since
Residents cannot accept another year of skyrocketing taxes,
Guardian said. "People will abandon their homes," he said.
Inside the unemployment center, people greeted former casino
colleagues like family.
"We're a strong community and will get through this," said
Chris Ireland, 55, who bartended at the Showboat Casino Hotel
for 27 years. His wife Keisi is also losing her job of 14 years
as a cocktail server there.
"I see nothing but a bright future," Ireland said. "I'm not
about to leave this city."
(Reporting by Hilary Russ; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)