By Cleve Bryan

By Cleve Bryan

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J., (CBS) — The shrinking casino industry is one reason experts say Atlantic County is top on the list of counties in New Jersey for home foreclosures.

This week RealtyTrac released a report showing New Jersey foreclosure starts in August increased about 115 percent from the same period last year.

It says the Garden State has the nation’s 4th highest foreclosure rate with 1 in every 553 housing units having a foreclosure filing.

The New Jersey County with the highest foreclosure rate is Atlantic County at 1 in every 292 houses with a foreclosure filing.

This mirrors information from the NJ Department of Labor showing Atlantic County (10 percent in July) is just below Cumberland County (10.2 percent) for highest unemployment rate in the state.

“When these casino workers came in and bought these $300,00 to $500,000 houses they could afford them, but when they lost their jobs or went from full time to part time, they couldn’t make the payments,” says Atlantic County Sheriff Frank Balles.

His office oversees dozens of houses at foreclosure auction each week.

“We feel bad for the people who are losing their homes to no fault of their own because of their job situation,” says Balles.

He says more people need to take advantage of their program to help avoid foreclosure called R.E.AL Help which stands for Realty Experts Aligned to Help.

Counselors like Russell Graves can help with reductions and deferments on loan payments.

He says last week at a resource center for laid-off casino workers 360 people signed up.

“We have 85 percent better chance of getting people a modification and one that lasts than if you go on your own,” says Graves, executive director of Consumer Credit and Budget Counseling.

Information on the free program can be found at http://www.acsheriff.org/main/programs/realhelp.asp

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