By Cleve Bryan
ATLANTIC CITY, NJ – More than 1,100 Trump Plaza workers were sent layoff notices Monday as AC tourism district officials face the possibility of four casinos closing in 2014.
Trump Entertainment Resorts, Inc. confirmed the move through a press release Monday, saying they have been reviewing alternatives for the property.
“Although this review has not been completed and no final decision has been made, the company expects that it will terminate the operations of Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino on or shortly after September 16, 2014,” read the release.
Workers described the atmosphere inside the gaming hall, which greets visitors as they arrive in Atlantic City, as gloomy.
“It’s definitely glum, everybody’s depressed and they’re trying to be optimistic,” says Louis Ciabatoni, who worked in maintenance for 12 years and now has to find a new way to support his wife and two children.
Trump Plaza is the fourth casino this year to announce intentions to close, with nearly 8,000 workers citywide either laid off or at risk – 1,153 Trump Plaza, 1,600 Atlantic Club, 2,100 Showboat and 3,100 Revel.
“It’s not a surprise to those involved in the industry that this property will be closing,” says Liza Cartmell, president of the Atlantic City Alliance.
Since the Showboat made their announcement to close, several politicians and casino industry experts have characterized layoffs as the painful consequence of Atlantic City “transitioning” away from a gambling-first destination.
In 2011, Governor Christie signed legislation to create a Tourism District and increase money spent on attracting tourists as well as companies that offer non-gaming job opportunities.
It outlined that at least $30M be spent on advertising and promotions, yet far more jobs are going than coming.
“It’s a tough one for employees,” says Cartmell. “But the reality is, if we were not spending $30 million a year to compete, we would fall off face of the earth from a leisure perspective.”
Cartmell says there is opportunity for the convention industry to keep expanding and fill hotel rooms outside of the summer months with the addition of a conference center at Harrah’s.
There is also hope for more jobs when a Bass Pro Shop opens, as well as market on the Boardwalk that’s being designed much like Philadelphia’s Reading Terminal Market.
John Palmieri, executive director of the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, which is tasked with carrying out much of the Tourism District Master Plan, says the state of Atlantic City is much better than some are portraying it.
“Maybe we, in effect, dealt with the least strong of the casino group, and we might be able to determine that we can sustain ourselves with seven or eight casinos,” says Palmieri.
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