Atlantic City Workers Face Tough Odds As Casino Industry Crashes

5 ways workers in any dying company town can act

Atlantic city, boardwalk at night
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It hasn't been a good year for Atlantic City and the bad news just keeps on coming. The result is more and more unemployed workers in an already less than robust local economy. First, The Atlantic Club shut its doors in January 2014. Then, in June, Caesar's entertainment, owner of four different casino properties, announced the closing of Showboat, the New Orleans' themed casino at the other end of the Boardwalk.

Now, before the area's high summer season is over, officials have announced that Revel, the newest and perhaps the most lavish of the AC casinos, will close in September. Revel alone may account for 3,000 jobs and estimates are as high as 6,000 jobs lost across all properties, especially with rumors rampant that two Trump logo'd properties may not be far behind in closing doors. The politicians are coming out in force as this type of massive unemployment in any state is devastating. It's to New Jersey what cars are to Detroit, or steel was to Pittsburgh. For the casino industry, it's what many claim is a long overdue pruning, likely giving healthier casinos room to grow. But for the workers who relied on gaming for a living, the odds of finding new employment in the same industry is bleak.

It's not just Black Jack dealers who are affected. The ranks of the unemployed are likely to include accountants, marketing and PR colleagues, cocktail waitresses, cleaning crews, and, yes, table game dealers. The ripple effect will touch local restaurants, retail outlets, health clubs, nail salons, medical providers, and pet sitters –- to name a few -- whose own businesses relied heavily on local casino employees. Some pundits even claim AC's woes are likely to affect Governor Chris Christie's own job prospects.

Local politicians are coming out in force to consider options. The boisterous Governor Christie has long been an advocate of the area and, as he did with Sandy, is quickly putting himself on the scene to address concerns. But he's not alone. The newly elected Mayor Don Guardian and relatively new Senator Cory Booker are also considering options with Booker floating the possibility of federal grant monies for retraining. The problem is so large, it's one of the few that seems to have bi-partisan attention.

But while all this political positioning goes on, workers are rightly worried and wondering what will become of them. Here are five options that may be helpful to consider both for AC workers and those outside of the AC gaming community.
  • Relocate. The gaming industry is under siege across the country, but jobs are available in other states from Nevada to New York. Many ex-AC casino workers are already doing long commutes to Philly and Delaware-based properties, while leaving families intact at local schools. This is a personal decision that involves an entire family and one that is never made lightly, but it can buy a person time to stay employed while reviewing other options.

>> Related Article: How a sales guy left the area to land a job where jobs were more fertile.
  • Redefine Your Skill Set. Several casinos are holding job fairs and inviting employers from other industries to meet their workers. It's a great gesture, but unlikely to work unless employees learn to redefine their skills. If you know how to deal cards at a Table Game, you quickly need to redefine yourself as good at math and having great people skills rather than labeling yourself as just a "Dealer."
  • Retrain. Don't wait for the ax to fall. Don't waste time and start retraining and focusing on your job search immediately. Learn new computer skills, get certifications, or enroll in classes that will help you recreate yourself in another industry.
>> Related Article: Making Hard Career Choices
  • Reintroduce Yourself. Now is the time to immediately check your contacts, talk to patrons, and network aggressively. Let people know that your job is winding down and you're looking for new options. Don't limit yourself. Ask anyone and everyone how you might be able to apply your skills in their industry and ask for meet and greets with hiring managers to learn more about new industries that might be more welcoming.
  • Reimagine Solutions. Since necessity is the mother of invention, perhaps this is the chance to be part of the solution. Perhaps this is the time to start a new venture with your colleagues that helps groups re-engineer talents. Do you know groups who have special artistic or culinary skills that have gone unnoticed? Perhaps this is the time to rally forces and create a new business or business model that lets entire groups support each other in developing something new.

These options are not mutually exclusive. The news in Atlantic City is definitely grim, but entire cities have reinvented themselves before. Now it seems it's Atlantic City's turn -- one person at a time.

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