Mixed recovery for Atlantic City a year after Showboat, Revel close

 Shuttered Atlantic City casinos Revel (left) and Showboat. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY, file)

Shuttered Atlantic City casinos Revel (left) and Showboat. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY, file)

It wasn’t easy being an Atlantic City casino worker in 2014.

First, the Atlantic Club closed in January. Then, in a one-two punch, Showboat closed on Aug. 31 and Revel shut its doors on Sept. 2. Two weeks later, the Trump Plaza shut down.

Some 8,000 workers lost their jobs as Atlantic City went from having 12 casinos to eight.

A year after the Showboat and Revel closings, Atlantic City is still struggling to maintain its lifeblood while simultaneously showing some signs of recovery.

“You see a lot more families that were stable reaching out for help,” said Jeanetta Warren, a project coordinator at Catholic Charities who runs the nonprofit’s Atlantic City Crisis Committee.

Warren, who helps laid-off workers and their families get back on their feet, said the negative impact of the casino closures reaches well beyond the employees who lost their jobs.

“Multiply that by the families. That’s 8,000 individuals not mentioning their children, their spouses, people that depend on them financially in their household, maybe … a parent,” she said.

“Multiply 8,000 times those numbers, and it’s really just devastating.”

But the remaining casinos, which are getting a larger slice of the market, are doing well financially.

Overall casino revenue through June of this year was up 3.5 percent from the same period in 2014, and profits increased 27.4 percent.

“The good news is that the existing casinos, the ones that remain, are doing better than they had previously,” said state Sen. Jim Whelan, D-Atlantic, who acknowledges that the news out of Atlantic City over the last year has been a mixed bag.

“The bad news is that we’re sort of not even back to the level that we were when Revel and Showboat and Trump Plaza and Atlantic Club were all operating.”

One measure aimed at helping Atlantic City is a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILOT) program approved by the Legislature, which would let casinos pay a lump sum to the state instead of making fluctuating tax payments each year.

It is part of a package of five bills aimed at boosting the city’s economy, which requires a signature from Gov. Chris Christie before becoming law.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.