Atlantic City losing 2 casinos, 5K jobs in 3 days

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Atlantic City losing 2 casinos, 5K jobs in 3 days
A man places a hat at a small shrine on The Boardwalk outside the closed House Of The Blues club at the Showboat Casino Hotel Sunday, Aug. 31, 2014, in Atlantic City, N.J. The show is ending for the Showboat Casino Hotel in Atlantic City. The Mardi Gras-themed casino is shutting down at 4 p.m. Sunday after 27 years on the Boardwalk. Owner Caesars Entertainment is closing the still-profitable Showboat to reduce the number of casinos in Atlantic City, which has been struggling with plunging revenue and increased competition. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
A security guard blocks entrance to the closing Showboat Casino Hotel Sunday, Aug. 31, 2014, in Atlantic City, N.J. The show is ending for the Showboat Casino Hotel in Atlantic City. The Mardi Gras-themed casino is shutting down at 4 p.m. Sunday after 27 years on the Boardwalk. Owner Caesars Entertainment is closing the still-profitable Showboat to reduce the number of casinos in Atlantic City, which has been struggling with plunging revenue and increased competition. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
Employees gather as security guards block entrance to the closing Showboat Casino Hotel Sunday, Aug. 31, 2014, in Atlantic City, N.J. The show is ending for the Showboat Casino Hotel in Atlantic City. The Mardi Gras-themed casino is shutting down at 4 p.m. Sunday after 27 years on the Boardwalk. Owner Caesars Entertainment is closing the still-profitable Showboat to reduce the number of casinos in Atlantic City, which has been struggling with plunging revenue and increased competition. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
Long time employees Denise Miller, facing camera, 24 years, and Gloria Panameno, 27 years, hug as they leave the closing Showboat Casino Hotel at four-in-the-afternoon Sunday, Aug. 31, 2014, in Atlantic City, N.J. The Mardi Gras-themed casino is shutting down at 4 p.m. Sunday after 27 years on the Boardwalk. Owner Caesars Entertainment is closing the still-profitable Showboat to reduce the number of casinos in Atlantic City, which has been struggling with plunging revenue and increased competition. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
A large crowd gathers on The Boardwalk at the entrance of the closing Showboat Casino Hotel at four-in-the-afternoon Sunday, Aug. 31, 2014, in Atlantic City, N.J. The Mardi Gras-themed casino is shutting down at 4 p.m. Sunday after 27 years on the Boardwalk. Owner Caesars Entertainment is closing the still-profitable Showboat to reduce the number of casinos in Atlantic City, which has been struggling with plunging revenue and increased competition. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
Revel Casino and Hotel, left, is seen near Showboat, the Mardi Gras-themed casino that shut down after 27 years on the Boardwalk, Sunday, Aug. 31, 2014, in Atlantic City, N.J. Showboat was one of three casinos closing within the next two weeks as Atlantic City deals with the impact of increasing competition from casinos in neighboring states. Revel will begin a two-day closing Monday, and Trump Plaza is closing Sept. 16. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
Workers put closed signs on the entrance of the Showboat Casino Hotel, Sunday, Aug. 31, 2014, in Atlantic City, N.J. The show is ending for the Showboat Casino Hotel in Atlantic City. The Mardi Gras-themed casino shut down Sunday after 27 years on the Boardwalk. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
Workers put closed signs on the entrance of the Showboat Casino Hotel Sunday, Aug. 31, 2014, in Atlantic City, N.J. The show is ending for the Showboat Casino Hotel in Atlantic City. The Mardi Gras-themed casino is shutting down at 4 p.m. Sunday after 27 years on the Boardwalk. Owner Caesars Entertainment is closing the still-profitable Showboat to reduce the number of casinos in Atlantic City, which has been struggling with plunging revenue and increased competition. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
This July 24, 2014 photo shows several lights burned out in the illuminated facade of the Trump Plaza Hotel Casino in Atlantic City, N.J. On Tuesday Aug. 5, 2014, Donald Trump sued Trump Entertainment Resorts, seeking to force the company to remove his name from its two Atlantic City casinos, Trump Plaza and the Trump Taj Mahal, alleging the company had allowed the casinos to fall into disrepair and tarnish the real estate mogul's personal brand. (AP Photo/Wayne Parry)
Members of the congregation react to a preacher's sermon during a prayer service Wednesday Aug. 20, 2014 in Atlantic City N.J. for the nearly 8,000 casino workers who will lose their jobs in the next few weeks. Revel, the Showboat and Trump Plaza are all shutting down by mid-September. (AP Photo/Wayne Parry)
The Showboat Atlantic City hotel and casino is seen next to the Trump Taj Mahal in an early morning fog Wednesday, July 23, 2014, in Atlantic City, N.J. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
Christian and Jewish clergy members gather at a Baptist church in Atlantic City N.J. on Wednesday Aug. 20, 2014 at a prayer service for the 8,000 casino workers set to lose their jobs in the next few weeks. Revel, the Showboat and Trump Plaza are all shutting down by mid-September. (AP Photo/Wayne Parry)
Bishop James Washington of the New Shiloh Baptist Church in Atlantic City N.J. leads a prayer service on Wednesday Aug. 20, 2014 for the 8,000 casino workers set to lose their jobs soon. Revel, the Showboat and Trump Plaza are all shutting down by mid-September. (AP Photo/Wayne Parry)
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, center back to camera, greets protesters, mostly casino workers, before a town hall meeting Thursday, Aug. 14, 2014, in Ocean City, N.J. Christie is vowing to do everything he can to help laid-off Atlantic City casino workers find new jobs. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
This Wednesday, July 23, 2014 photo, people relax on a high deck at the Revel Casino Hotel near the neighboring Showboat Casino Hotel in Atlantic City, N.J. The state Gaming Enforcement Division gave final approval to Revel's shutdown on Sept. 1 and 2, signing the order on Tuesday night and releasing it on Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014. Showboat and Revel are due to close over Labor Day weekend, with Trump Plaza shutting down on Sept. 16. The shutdowns are part of a rapid unraveling of Atlantic City's gambling market, which began the year with 12 casinos, but will have eight before summer ends. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
This Wednesday, July 23, 2014 photo shows the Showboat Casino Hotel, left, and the Revel Casino Hotel along the Boardwalk in Atlantic City, N.J. The state Gaming Enforcement Division gave final approval to Revel's shutdown on Sept. 1 and 2, signing the order on Tuesday night and releasing it on Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014. Showboat and Revel are due to close over Labor Day weekend, with Trump Plaza shutting down on Sept. 16. The shutdowns are part of a rapid unraveling of Atlantic City's gambling market, which began the year with 12 casinos, but will have eight before summer ends. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino towers over Vera Coking's three story rooming house Wednesday, July 23, 2014, in Atlantic City, N.J. The decrepit boarding home owned by the Atlantic City woman who has been turning down multi-million dollar offers for the building in the shadow of Trump Plaza since the 80’s is now up for auction. With a reserve price of only $199,000, the fate of the house has gone down along with the city’s casino industry. On July 31, the property, at 127 South Columbia Place, will go up for auction. As recently as eight years ago, Donald Trump was willing to pay at least 10 times that amount so he could expand Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
Revel Atlantic City, left, stands next to the the Showboat Atlantic City Hotel and Casino in this aerial photograph taken over Atlantic City, New Jersey, U.S., on Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014. Casinos in Atlantic City will pick up about half of the revenue from the $2.6 billion Revel resort after it closes next week, according to Fitch Ratings. The company also said in a report today that the city will retain more than 60 percent of money generated at Trump Plaza Hotel & Casino and 75 percent at Caesar's Showboat when they go dark in the coming weeks. Photographer: Kevin P. Coughlin/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Buildings stand near the shore in this aerial photograph taken over Atlantic City, New Jersey, U.S., on Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014. Casinos in Atlantic City will pick up about half of the revenue from the $2.6 billion Revel resort after it closes next week, according to Fitch Ratings. The company also said in a report today that the city will retain more than 60 percent of money generated at Trump Plaza Hotel & Casino and 75 percent at Caesar's Showboat when they go dark in the coming weeks. Photographer: Kevin P. Coughlin/Bloomberg via Getty Images
From the foreground: Trump Taj Mahal Atlantic City, the Showboat Casino Hotel and Revel Atlantic City stand in Atlantic City, New Jersey, U.S., on Thursday, August 28, 2014. Once the East Coast's gambling hub, Atlantic City has suffered as casinos opened in neighboring states including Pennsylvania and New York after they legalized gambling or expanded betting to increase tax revenue. Revel announced it will close its doors for good Tuesday September 2, 2014 at 5:00am. Photographer: Kevin P. Coughlin/Bloomberg via Getty Images
The Claridge Hotel and Casino, left, and Bally's Atlantic City Hotel and Casino stand in this aerial photograph taken over Atlantic City, New Jersey, U.S., on Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014. Casinos in Atlantic City will pick up about half of the revenue from the $2.6 billion Revel resort after it closes next week, according to Fitch Ratings. The company also said in a report today that the city will retain more than 60 percent of money generated at Trump Plaza Hotel & Casino and 75 percent at Caesar's Showboat when they go dark in the coming weeks. Photographer: Kevin P. Coughlin/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Buildings stand near the shore in this aerial photograph taken over Atlantic City, New Jersey, U.S., on Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014. Casinos in Atlantic City will pick up about half of the revenue from the $2.6 billion Revel resort after it closes next week, according to Fitch Ratings. The company also said in a report today that the city will retain more than 60 percent of money generated at Trump Plaza Hotel & Casino and 75 percent at Caesar's Showboat when they go dark in the coming weeks. Photographer: Kevin P. Coughlin/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Revel Atlantic City, right, stands next to the the Showboat Atlantic City Hotel and Casino in this aerial photograph taken over Atlantic City, New Jersey, U.S., on Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014. Casinos in Atlantic City will pick up about half of the revenue from the $2.6 billion Revel resort after it closes next week, according to Fitch Ratings. The company also said in a report today that the city will retain more than 60 percent of money generated at Trump Plaza Hotel & Casino and 75 percent at Caesar's Showboat when they go dark in the coming weeks. Photographer: Kevin P. Coughlin/Bloomberg via Getty Images
CORRECTS TO REFER TO HOME BIRNBAUM'S PARENTS LIVED IN The home, center, where Charlie Birnbaum was raised is seen Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014, in Atlantic City, N.J. Birnbaum, 67, who turned his love for the piano into a job tuning pianos in Atlantic City's casinos is fighting the state's attempt to take his home in the shadows of the failed Revel Casino Hotel through eminent domain. The Casino Reinvestment Development Authority wants to take the home where Birnbaum parents lived, and where his mother was killed, even though the casino is closing next week. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
The Showboat Atlantic City Hotel and Casino stands in this aerial photograph taken over Atlantic City, New Jersey, U.S., on Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014. Casinos in Atlantic City will pick up about half of the revenue from the $2.6 billion Revel resort after it closes next week, according to Fitch Ratings. The company also said in a report today that the city will retain more than 60 percent of money generated at Trump Plaza Hotel & Casino and 75 percent at Caesar's Showboat when they go dark in the coming weeks. Photographer: Kevin P. Coughlin/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Revel Atlantic City, right, stands next to the the Showboat Atlantic City Hotel and Casino in this aerial photograph taken over Atlantic City, New Jersey, U.S., on Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014. Casinos in Atlantic City will pick up about half of the revenue from the $2.6 billion Revel resort after it closes next week, according to Fitch Ratings. The company also said in a report today that the city will retain more than 60 percent of money generated at Trump Plaza Hotel & Casino and 75 percent at Caesar's Showboat when they go dark in the coming weeks. Photographer: Kevin P. Coughlin/Bloomberg via Getty Images
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By WAYNE PARRY

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) - A time few could imagine during the not-too-distant glory days of casino gambling has arrived in Atlantic City, where two casinos will close this weekend and a third will shut down in two weeks.

More than 5,000 workers will lose their jobs in an unprecedented weekend in the seaside gambling resort, leaving many feeling betrayed by a system that once promised stable, well-paying jobs.

The Showboat is closing Sunday, followed by Revel on Monday and Tuesday. Trump Plaza is next, closing Sept. 16. To the thousands who will be left behind, it still seems unreal.

"We never thought this would happen," said Chris Ireland, who has been a bartender at the Showboat since it opened. His wife works there, too, as a cocktail server. Before dinnertime Sunday, neither will have a job.

What makes it even tougher to swallow is that the Showboat - one of four Atlantic City casinos owned by Caesars Entertainment - is still turning a profit. But the company says it is closing Showboat to help reduce the total number of casinos in Atlantic City. Caesars also teamed with Tropicana Entertainment to buy the Atlantic Club last December and close it in January.

Atlantic City Is Loosing Big This Labor Day Weekend

"They just want to eliminate competition," Ireland said. "Everyone's in favor of a free market until it doesn't exactly work for them."

Yet many analysts and casino executives say the painful contraction now shrinking Atlantic City's casino market is exactly what the city needs to survive. Since 2006, Atlantic City's casino revenue has fallen from $5.2 billion to $2.86 billion last year, and it will fall further this year. Atlantic City will end the year with eight casinos after beginning the year with 12.

New casinos popping up in an already saturated Northeastern U.S. gambling market aren't expanding the overall pie but are slicing it into ever-smaller pieces. Fewer casinos could mean better financial performance for the survivors.

Resorts Casino Hotel, which was on the verge of closing a few years ago, completed a remarkable turnaround in the second quarter of this year, swinging from a $1.3 million loss last year to a $1.9 million profit this year.

"I truly believe that eight remaining casinos can all do very well when the gambling market is right-sized," said Resorts president Mark Giannantonio.

That may be true, but it is little comfort to workers who are losing their jobs. By the time Trump Plaza shuts down in two weeks, nearly 8,000 jobs - or a quarter of Atlantic City's casino workforce - will be unemployed. A mass unemployment filing due to begin Wednesday is so large it has been booked into the city's convention center.

When casino gambling was approved by New Jersey voters in 1976, it was billed as a way to revitalize Atlantic City and provide stable, lasting jobs. The first casino, Resorts, opened in 1978, kicking off three decades of soaring revenue and employment.

But the Great Recession hit just as new casinos were popping up in neighboring Pennsylvania and New York, cutting deeply into Atlantic City's customer base.

"There was a promise when casinos came in here that these would be good, viable jobs, something you could raise your family on and have a decent life with," said Paul Smith, a cook at the Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort. "I feel so bad for all these people losing their jobs. It wasn't supposed to be like this."

Mayor Don Guardian says his city is remaking itself as a more multifaceted destination, where gambling is only part of the allure. But he acknowledges the pain this weekend will bring.

"This is going to be a difficult few weeks for many of us in Atlantic City," he said. "People will lose their jobs, and that is never good news. Our hearts go out to our neighbors and friends. We still have difficult waters to navigate."

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