Atlantic City Retail Casino Workers Vote to Strike, 7 Casinos May Be Impacted

Seven retail casinos in Atlantic City may be impacted by a strike union workers authorized yesterday. If the retail casino workers do strike, the labor action will begin with four casinos on July 1. Workers from other casinos may join later.

Yesterday, Unite Here Local 54 voted to strike. About 96% of them are in favor of hitting picket lines.

They represent the Atlantic City portion of the 10,000-plus workers enrolled in the union. These include retail casino housekeepers, bartenders, cocktail servers, cooks, bellhops, door attendants, and other service workers in Southern New Jersey and Eastern Pennsylvania.

While that mix doesn’t include dealers, a hospitality worker strike can shut a casino down.

The Local 54 site notes:

In the summer of 2016, workers at the Taj Mahal Casino went on strike and held continuous picket lines for 102 days. It ultimately closed its doors to the public and reopened as the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in June 2018.

Land-based casinos also partner with New Jersey online casinos. Online gambling won’t likely be affected by this possible strike.

A Retail Casino Strike Involves Thousands of Workers

The strike will happen if Local 54 negotiators can’t reach an agreement with casino owners by stated deadlines.

Retail casinos slated to be impacted on July 1 are:

  • Borgata Hotel Casino and Spa
  • Caesars Atlantic City Resort and Casino
  • Harrah’s Resort Atlantic City
  • Tropicana Atlantic City

The possible strike may affect the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Atlantic City on July 3, according to the Local 54 post.

A work stoppage may hit Las Vegas-based Caesars Entertainment the hardest. It’s in charge of Caesars, Harrah’s, and Tropicana in Atlantic City.

Las Vegas-headquartered MGM Resorts International owns Borgata.

NJGamblingSites.com didn’t receive responses today to its requests for comment from the owners of the Borgata, Caesars, Hard Rock, Harrah’s, and Tropicana retail casinos.

Why Does a Possible Strike Matter?

This possible labor action matters because retail casinos are at the center of Atlantic City’s economy. They employ nearly 23,000 workers. That’s about 15,000 fewer people than the residents who inhabit the city full-time.

As of May 2021, 3,440 “gambling dealers” worked in New Jersey, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Although dealers may not be on picket lines, service staff tend to outnumber them by a wide margin. Hence, the Local 54 represents so many workers from the city’s nine casinos that their absence would be felt.

If workers do walk out, it could impact revenue for the retail casinos.

During the “record-setting recovery” of 2021, commercial gaming revenue nearly reached $2.6 billion in Atlantic City, according to the American Gaming Association (AGA). That’s second only to Sin City’s more than $7 billion showing during 2021, the AGA says.

So the Las Vegas Strip’s land-based casinos generated nearly three times as much revenue as Atlantic City’s nine. Yet, Nevada houses almost four times as many dealers as New Jersey.

Local 54 members contend they’ve had to do more with less.

What About the Other 2 Casinos?

On May 31, Local 54 members’ employment contracts expired at all Atlantic City retail casinos but Bally’s Atlantic City Hotel and Casino and Ocean Casino Resort. Local 54 lists each of the latter as having an “agreement in place.”

Therefore, workers at Borgata, Caesar’s, Golden Nugget Atlantic City, Hard Rock, Harrahs, Resorts Casino Hotel, and Tropicana are working without contracts, the union says.

Golden Nugget and Resorts are listed by Local 54 as “at risk of dispute.”

As the Associated Press put it today in an article published by the Press of Atlantic City:

[Local 54 president Bob] McDevitt said the union has so-called “me-too” agreements with Bally’s and the Ocean Casino Resort specifying that they will honor the terms of contracts reached with the city’s larger properties. That effectively guarantees those two casinos will not be struck, he said.

“Bally’s and Ocean are in the green zone, Resorts and Golden Nugget are in the yellow zone and the rest are in the red zone,” he said.

Golden Nugget didn’t respond to NJGamblingSites.com’s request for comment today.

Jamie Hoagland, advertising and public relations director for Resorts, told NJGamblingSites.com:

Thanks for reaching out, but we won’t be commenting at this time.

Why May Retail Casino Workers Strike?

Retail casino workers are awaiting word from their negotiating committee members regarding going on strike. Yesterday’s vote authorized a strike if negotiations aren’t fruitful by July 1 for Borgata and the Caesars properties. The same contingency is true for the July 3 deadline for Hard Rock workers.

Local 54’s blog post today about the vote said:

Over the years, casino workers have sacrificed wage increases for the health of the industry. Workers have persevered though casino closures, Hurricane Sandy, and a global pandemic. Now, they’re falling behind. As industry’s profits and gaming revenues surpass pre-pandemic levels, wages for Atlantic City’s casino workers have not kept pace.

The post cites union research conducted a couple of months ago. It contains surveys from 1,934 Atlantic City casino workers.

The findings show:

  • 61% of respondents reported that they struggled to pay their rent or mortgage on time at least once in the past year.
  • When asked, “In the past year, have you ever lacked the money to cover any of the following expenses?” 32% reported they lacked money for food, 37% for utilities, and 27% for transportation.

So union negotiators want new contracts for workers. “Casino workers need a raise” is their slogan, from social media posts to picket signs.

They say it’s high time, even if it is high season for the casinos.

So far, retail casino representatives aren’t saying anything.

About the Author

Heather Fletcher

Heather Fletcher is the lead writer at NJ Gambling Sites, concentrating on online casino coverage. In March 2021, Fletcher began writing about online casino gambling as the lead writer for Online Poker Report. She holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from The Ohio State University, as well as a master's degree in journalism from New York University, and has now shifted to NJ Gambling Sites to lend her expertise.