Atlantic City’s Laid Off Casino Workers Fear Loss of Unemployment Payments

With thousands of former Atlantic City casino workers filing for unemployment after four casino closings in the resort, many are worried their benefits will run out long before they find new jobs. Some state politicians say they will fight for unemployment extensions, but the chances aren’t good.

A total of 3,412 unemployment claims have been filed through September in connection with the closing of four Atlantic City casinos according to the New Jersey Department of Labor, but that only gives employees a 26-week window before their benefits run out.

Then what? Atlantic City could lose a fifth casino—the Trump Taj Mahal—in that time. Even the possible reopening of thee closed Revel casino, which previously accounted for about 3,000 jobs, isn’t spurring that much hope. The new buyers of the casino have not made a commitment to rehire former workers.

The Press of Atlantic City interviewed several displaced workers and found that even with unemployment benefits, there is a lot of fear in the city—especially when the checks stop.

“It’s comfortable now because you get your check, but March is going to come fast,” Joan Cooper, a former Revel dealer told the paper. “Everyone I’ve talked to have said they have to give us an extra six months, but they don’t have to give us anything. If you want something, you have to fight for it.”

The plight of the workers has attracted the attention of New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, who had been part of a group of Senators that shaped a bi-partisan deal to extend unemployment benefits around the country that had passed in the Senate.

“Unfortunately, the House didn’t even vote on it,” he told the Press. “While I’m disappointed the House didn’t pass legislation that is so crucial to families across the country, I always welcome any opportunity to re-engage on this issue,” he said.

To make matters worse, employees of the Atlantic Club casino, which closed in January, are already seeing their benefits run out.

U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo told the paper he is continuing to fight for unemployment extensions.

“Clearly this issue is more urgent now than ever before and no one is hurting more than our district,” LoBiondo said. “I want to be careful about raising hopes and giving people false promises, but I will continue to work with the leadership to get a vote on this. I am hopeful we will find a way to make this happen by November or December.”

When s federal program for emergency unemployment benefits beyond normal state benefits expired in in December, 7,000 residents in the Atlantic City area lost unemployment benefits. And that was before any casinos closed.