By WAYNE PARRY
ATLANTIC CITY, New Jersey (AP) _ Thousands of newly laid-off casino workers turned out at the Atlantic City Convention Center for a mass unemployment filing.
The session Wednesday morning comes after a brutal weekend that saw more than 5,000 employees at the Showboat and Revel lose their jobs.
More than 100 work stations were set up to accommodate the newly jobless dealers, cocktail servers and other workers.
Officials from the state Department of Labor and the main casino workers’ union, Local 54 of Unite-HERE, helped displaced workers file for unemployment, and gave them information on signing up for health insurance and other benefits.
By mid-September, four of the 12 casinos with which Atlantic City started the year will have closed, putting almost 8,000 people out of work.
Trump Plaza is closing Sept. 16, and the Atlantic Club shut down in January.
The unemployment session will be the most visible manifestation of the nearly eight-year downturn plaguing Atlantic City’s casino industry. Beset by ever-increasing competition in neighboring states, New Jersey’s casinos have seen their revenues fall from a high of $5.2 billion in 2006 to $2.86 billion last year.
The immediate cause of the decline was the advent of casinos in neighboring Pennsylvania, which has since surpassed Atlantic City as the second-largest casino market after Nevada in the U.S.
Analysts and many casino executives say the contraction in Atlantic City, while painful to workers and government finances, is a necessary response to pressures facing the market, and have predicted the remaining eight casinos will fare better with less competition.
The assistance to laid-off workers will continue for two weeks, and then be moved to a different location in mid-September after Trump Plaza closes.