New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has been challenged by casino workers over jobs, as three of the city’s casinos face imminent closure. Christie, who was at Ocean City Town Hall to discuss pension reforms, was greeted on his arrival by a group of workers from the threatened Revel, Showboat and Trump Plaza, chanting “Save our Jobs” and “Five Year Promise.”
In 2011 Christie issued a five-year plan that promised to fix the New Jersey economy, offering millions of dollars each year to bring more flights to the Atlantic City airport, promote more convention business and raise private investment into the casino market.
Revel was a key ingredient to Christie’s designs for Atlantic City. Conceived before the recession, construction of the Revel project started in 2008, just as the economic downturn hit, and Revel Inc found itself in financial dire straits, especially when backers, Morgan Stanley, pulled out soon after.
The entire project has been a complete disaster, consistently losing money since it opened in 2012 and more recently hemorrhaging $2 million per week
Christie, for whom Revel represented the promise of a gleaming, revitalized Atlantic City, intervened with a $261 million dollar bailout in tax credits and new loan, desperate to see the $2.4 billion project through to completion.
Has the Five Year Plan Failed?
There are few clearer symbols of the failure of the five-year plan, then, than the recent news that Revel will close on September 1st. The entire project has been a complete disaster, consistently losing money since it opened in 2012 and more recently hemorrhaging $2 million per week.
With the Showboat and the Trump Plaza also likely to close in the next few weeks, adding to unemployment created by the closure of the Atlantic Club at the start of the year, casino workers are now demanding action and reassurance.
“For all those people who I saw as I was walking in chanting, ‘Save our jobs,’ I hear you,” Christie told the crowd. “I am plugged in, I am listening and I am working.” But he also said that while his administration was working with private employers to find more jobs, there was little he could do to force the casinos to stay open.
Summit to Address Future of AC
Christie announced the previous day that a summit would be held on September 8, in which political leaders and casino industry officials to discuss a way forward for Atlantic City. However, Showboat worker of 27 years Cindy Pemberton told Christie that it’s too little, too late. “If we wait two weeks, Showboat will be closed,” she said.
“The government can’t order private businesses to do things,” Christie told her. “And you don’t want to live in a world where we do … What you’re asking me to do is become the CEO of Showboat. I don’t want to run Showboat.
“[We’re] trying to come up with a solution that could help you and others save your jobs,” he added. “That’s what our goal is.”
The Governor also told the crowd that he is “thinking about” a 2016 presidential run. In response to a question from the public, he said: “It is an enormous decision to make not only for me, but my family. Probably by the end of this year or the beginning of next I’ll decide.”
“Running for the presidency is great,” said one protestors’ sign, anticipating the question. “But we need ur help here! We need ur help now!