Atlantic City casinos Hard Rock and Ocean Resort plan to open this summer, but before they can, the two Boardwalk properties need to fulfill thousands of jobs. Local officials are concerned that there might not be enough qualified applicants.
Atlantic City resorts currently employ more than 22,000 people, but that number is expected to balloon over 27 percent in 2018.
Hard Rock, which is reimagining the former Trump Taj Mahal into a rock ‘n’ roll-themed casino and hotel, and Ocean Resort, the former Revel, are looking to hire 6,000 workers before the summer months. Current operators are additionally expected to expand their workforces by 2,000 employees to grow the city’s total casino labor pool to 28,000 people.
Bob McDevitt, president of the Unite Here Local 54 casino union that engaged billionaire Carl Icahn in a benefits dispute that led to the Taj’s closure, says finding qualified applicants for the positions might be more difficult than some expect.
Talking with the Press of Atlantic City, McDevitt explained, “This is the tightest job market that I have seen. A lot of people pulled up their stakes and left. Also, young people are not staying around here. They don’t see a ton of opportunity.”
Fleeing Atlantic City
Five Atlantic City casinos closed between 2014 and 2016. Along with them went roughly 10,000 jobs.
According to Stockton University, about 13,000 Atlantic City workers have left the labor force since 2013, and many more have departed the town altogether in search of greener pastures.
Though gaming revenue has stabilized as the market “right-sized” to seven casinos, and total win for the remaining gambling venues grew 7.3 percent in 2017, unemployment remains high.
Per the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, unemployment is still above seven percent in Atlantic City, far higher than the nationwide average of 3.9 percent. The total number of residents has decreased 2.1 percent between 2010 and 2016.
Stockton University Institute of Gaming Executive Director Rummy Pandit stated, “Those recently unemployed (by casino closures) could be readjusting lifestyles and assessing future career decisions.”
Former New Jersey Casino Reinvestment Development Authority chair Jim Kennedy says there’s 16,000 fewer workers today in Atlantic City than before the recession.
In gambling, the house always wins, but right now it’s the qualified casino worker that might have the upper hand. Resorts need table dealers, slot and cage staff, chefs, fine-dining wait staff, and more.
Tomorrow, Hard Rock Atlantic City will hold its first official job fair, but the two-day event is open only to former Trump Taj Mahal employees. It’s Hard Rock making good on its promise to put terminated staffers back to work.
But there’s a lingering concern that casino operators haven’t learn their lesson from the recession, and that investment is returning too quickly.
Fitch Ratings recently stated that the Atlantic City casino market “is in a good spot,” but the reintroduction of two casino resorts “is not great.”