I was telling Swamp Rabbit about my Labor Day Weekend trip to Atlantic City, where three casinos are closing and more than 5,700 casino workers are being laid off over the next two weeks.
“Closed” stickers were slapped onto the Showboat’s front doors by security personnel at 3 p.m. yesterday. Just like that, 2,100 people were out of work. A stunned looking woman standing nearby told me she’d worked in the employees’ cafeteria for 25 years and still was hoping Caesars Entertainment, Showboat’s owner, would reverse its decision to pull the plug. Good luck with that.
The rabbit said he’s angry because the news media keeps assuring us the recession is over and unemployment is declining. “I was hopin’ to git me a job in the service sector,” he said. “At this rate, I won’t never be one of them high net-worth individuals.”
Showboat is the casino located closest to the $2.4 billion Revel, which was audaciously designed and built at the place where the ocean meets the Inlet. The sixth-floor casino has floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the Boardwalk, beach and ocean.
When Revel closes Tuesday, thousands more will be jobless. In its casino yesterday, I strolled past the HQ nightclub and noticed that superstar DJ Scrillex was scheduled to perform Sept. 6. Tough luck, Scrillex fans. Gonna have to drop your molly and dance somewhere else. An HQ employee told me she was hoping to hold on to her job for an extra week. This would allow her to miss the rush on Wednesday, Sept. 3, when the newly laid-off will swarm the A.C. Convention Center to sign up for unemployment compensation.
Revel’s casino was far from crowded yesterday. It was hard to believe high net-worth individuals had thought a gambling venue so vast and expensive — you’d have to see it to believe it — would succeed in today’s economy. Construction of Revel ceased for a long while when the recession hit hard and Morgan Stanley stopped bankrolling it, but the casino-hotel was completed two years ago with much help from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who championed the project even as casino revenues in Atlantic City continued to decline.
“You should get all this shit in your book, Odd Man,” the rabbit said. “America wants to know.”
I told him America already knows about Revel and at this point is immune to — I should have said asleep to — economic disaster stories. But yes, there is plenty about Revel in my novel Good Sal/Bad Sal, including this passage, which mentions the construction site in 2009:
…Salvy’s plan today was for us to stroll from Valhalla to G. Michael Mazilli’s office, at the end of the Pacific Avenue strip, in the South Inlet section, where the terrain was still bleak after 30 years of failed redevelopment schemes.
“Let me guess, your lawyer works out of a crack house,” I said as we walked.
I could see the lighthouse and a few high-rises and the steel bones of Revel, the mega-casino project that was supposed to pull Atlantic City out of its death spiral by luring in an army of high rollers, as opposed to the usual busloads of geezers on Social Security who dominate at the other A.C. casinos, most of which are nothing but glorified slots parlors. Construction of the Revel stopped when the housing bubble burst and the Wall Street crooks stopped investing in commercial real estate. They won’t invest again in casinos, not unless they sense a critical mass of new suckers with real money to blow. The old casinos will be on their own, laying off workers left and right. And even if there is a Revel someday, it won’t generate enough business to keep all the casinos in business…