1,600 Jobless After Atlantic City Casino Closes

Too many casinos, not enough gamblers?

Atlantic Club Closing
Wayne Parry/APDealers at the Atlantic Club Casino Hotel hug each other in the seconds after the casino shut down, early Monday, Jan. 13, 2014, in Atlantic City, N.J.

By Wayne Parry

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) - At a minute past midnight, Debra Wagner was suddenly unemployed.

A housekeeper for 23 years at the Atlantic Club Casino Hotel, she was one of 1,600 workers who lost their jobs early Monday when the struggling casino shut down, the victim of a glut of casinos in the northeastern U.S.

Just a few hours after a handful of remaining customers and last-shift workers counted down the casino's final five seconds, Wagner stood in line with hundreds of others at a union hall, hoping to score a $20 supermarket gift card and some help in filling out unemployment paperwork.

"I had planned to retire here," she said. "Right now I'll collect unemployment, and maybe in the spring somebody will start hiring. Hopefully."

But that seemed unlikely. With casinos popping up in states all around it, the Atlantic Club fell victim to the cold efficiency of the marketplace: Analysts have long said that in this region, there are too many casinos and not enough gamblers to keep them all afloat.

Two rival casino companies paid a combined $23.4 million to shut down the Atlantic Club and remove what they considered unneeded capacity from the market. Tropicana Entertainment bought the slot machines, table games and customer lists, while Caesars Entertainment bought an 801-room hotel it has no immediate plans for.

Wagner can't even turn to family for help.

"Both my sisters worked there, and so did my mom," she said. "We're all out of jobs, all four of us. We can't even help each other."

Once Atlantic City's top-earning casino, where then-owner Steve Wynn clowned with Frank Sinatra in commercials, bringing the legendary singer an armful of fresh towels, the Atlantic Club went out with a whimper. In the hours before the 12:01 a.m. closing, its restaurants and bars had all shut down, and many gamblers and employees had already left.

A few die-hards that stayed on the casino floor until the end, counting down its final five seconds as dealers who were suddenly unemployed burst into tears and hugged each other. Within moments, casino staff began stacking and counting chips and preparing to remove cash boxes from the casino floor.

Wayne Parry/APA row of slot machines sit late Sunday, Jan. 12, 2014, at the mostly empty Atlantic Club Casino Hotel in the moments before the casino shut down, in Atlantic City, N.J.
"Where was our support?" asked Kathy Buonasorte, a cocktail server for 28 of the casino's 33 years. "They all left us. No politician helped us. No one came to save us."

On the sidewalk outside the casino, she hugged fellow server Beth DeLuccia, who she described as the first friend she made at the casino. Nearby, server Maureen Cohen had just finished her final shift.

"I served my last drink at 4 this afternoon," she said. "It was incredibly sad. Can you believe how pathetic it's going to be to come over (a nearby) bridge and see a closed casino?"

"It's a sad day," said David Rebuck, director of the state Division of Gaming Enforcement, who watched the shutdown process begin right after midnight. Dealers and security personnel set to work counting the take from the casino's final day. Overnight, workers were to read the meter on each of the hundreds of slot machines, empty the cash containers and secure them in the counting room. At some point on Monday, armored cars were to remove the remaining cash.

The hotel's safe deposit boxes had been emptied hours before the shutdown as the final hotel guests checked out, and front-desk cashier drawers were already removed, leaving gaping holes.

By Wednesday, crews from the Tropicana will begin removing the slot machines and table games. The casino floor will be bare by the end of the month, Rebuck said.

Guests helped themselves to souvenirs as well, digging up or ripping out potted plants and even six-foot-tall trees from planters on their way out the door.

It was the first casino closure in Atlantic City since the Sands shut down in 2006. But that was intended to make way for a bigger, better casino that Pinnacle Entertainment planned, but never actually built.

Struggling for years against newer, bigger casinos in Atlantic City and in neighboring states, the Atlantic Club sought a buyer for the last few years but was unable to attract one. It filed for bankruptcy in November.

Its owners, Colony Capital LLC, a Los Angeles hedge fund, paid more than a half billion dollars for it in 2005.

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well just pack it up and move on down to Louisiana, things seem to be popping this way and there's a new casino being built............put your application in with the golden nugget.

January 18 2014 at 10:39 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Welcome to the new "progressive" economy. And it has just begun.

January 17 2014 at 1:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Life sucks, then you're out of a yob mon

January 16 2014 at 7:00 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

They are an abomination & I dance with joy at each failure...:)

January 16 2014 at 6:31 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

They just relied on gambling and didn't think outside of the box. How about some family friendly stuff. I might have frequented Atlantic City with my daughter and husband if there were more things to do. What a concept!!!!

January 16 2014 at 4:55 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to ymajd's comment

Vegas tried the family friendly thing in the late 80's early 90's. Didn't work there and it wouldn't work in Atlantic City. Casinos need dedicated gamblers. Families with their kids aren't what casinos need.

January 18 2014 at 6:17 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I have been going to AC for over 25 yrs . , to the Tagh Mahal . when Trump was there running things it was a wonderful place. Parties , good comp's , and made some good friends. We went every weekend. Then you had chance to win some money or at least be able to stay on a macine for hours even if you lost some money in the end. What these dopes from the gov. , the mayor and tourist orginazations is that the slot machines just take your money as fast as you can out it in and you seldom win anyhting if if you do you are usually far behind already. .Hardly any comps anymore , the place is like a ghost town, They have let go everyone possible who worked there. It's all what the new owners can take from you without giving back. This is the problem, but all these money grabbing owners want is your money without giving anything backWe went not to long ago and it's still the same you can't win anything back The casino is empty on the weekends. I predict that a lot more casion's will fail,but don't blame it on other casino's being built in other states.AC is dead in the water.I had made my last trip.

January 16 2014 at 4:46 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to paintcharmer's comment

Sounds like you are one BRILLANT mofo

January 16 2014 at 7:01 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply

Wait till your UC runs out...politicians will cut u off and leave you to the streets... Like they did 1.3 millions of us

January 16 2014 at 3:56 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to GovtLeftMeToTheStree's comment

Maybe if you all got together and demanded that Bill Clintons NAFTA got reversed by voting those out that do not agree. Our problem is simple. Both parties talk about a "world economy" and neither one is worried about the American economy. And yes it was Bill Clinton a Democrat and the Congress at the time along with the unions that have pushed our well paying manufacturing jobs over seas.

January 17 2014 at 1:58 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Tom's comment

Following diplomatic negotiations dating back to 1986 among Mexico, Canada and the USA, the leaders met in San Antonio, Texas, on December 17, 1992, to sign NAFTA. U.S. President George H. W. Bush, Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and Mexican President Carlos Salinas, each responsible for spearheading and promoting the agreement, ceremonially signed it.

January 18 2014 at 11:18 AM Report abuse rate up rate down

So the government (aka taxpayers) is supposed to support you forever?

January 18 2014 at 6:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The reason why the business is so bad @ the Jersey casinos is: Because the fascist liberal politicians put in place Cigarette smoking bans, which keep the rich gamblers away!

January 16 2014 at 3:19 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to the902inc's comment

You sound like a disgruntled addict talking. Most wealthy gamblers do not smoke; they gamble. Most of the smoking gamblers have little money for either.

January 16 2014 at 3:32 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Tommy Boy

Wish this would happen for the tight a..., cheap, crappy Indian casinos in our area.

January 16 2014 at 2:31 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Tommy Boy's comment

They have an indian casino in Baraga, upper Peninsula, Mi.
I go through there all the time.
Gas is at least 20 cents a gallon cheaper because no tax on the reservation.
I avoid the casino and buy the gas. I'm the only guy who ever won every time.

January 16 2014 at 9:18 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

I can sum it up like this....remember when you could win? I haven't been hand paid since 04'

January 16 2014 at 1:58 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Drew's comment
Tommy Boy

Know the feeling, Drew. We only have Indian run casinos in our area and they run one tightasso casino.

January 16 2014 at 2:32 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

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