ATLANTIC CITY — Seasonal layoffs in the tourism industry will begin after Labor Day, and the resort’s nine casino hotel properties will not be immune.
Less than two months after the city’s casino industry reported employing more than 30,000 people for the first time in nearly four years, the total number of employees will drop below that threshold. But industry experts said the annual ebb and flow of casino employment is no cause for alarm, even if this year looks worse by the numbers.
Jim Kennedy, a former Casino Reinvestment Development Authority executive director who is now an Atlantic City regional economic and policy analyst, said he expects at least 1,000 people to be laid off between the upcoming holiday and October. Kennedy said that drop is part of the normal fluctuation of seasonal employment.
“(The casino employees) go in knowing (they’re) there for the summer season,” he said. “But there will be more this year because of overstaffing.”
Bob McDevitt, president of casino workers union Unite Here Local 54, said in addition to the offseason layoffs that occur every year, cuts to overstaffing at the resort’s two new properties, Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City and Ocean Resort Casino, which both opened June 27, will make the employment picture seem worse than it really is.
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“When you open a casino, you always overhire, as a practice, because you don’t know who is going to show up those first few days,” McDevitt said. “Every casino that has ever opened has had to lay off.”
McDevitt said seasonal casino employees are not caught off guard when their employment ends. Typically, casino employees hired in mid-May are given an agreement that clearly states their employment is seasonal, he said. Seasonal employees typically include those who work at the outdoor bars, pools and any excess staff at the properties’ restaurants, retail spaces or lounges hired to handle the summer tourists.
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Based on July’s casino employment figures reported to the state Division of Gaming Enforcement, 5,067 of the industry’s 30,217 workers were listed as “other,” which includes seasonal, temporary, on call or leave-of-absence employees.
While the number of people employed in the casino industry is important to the region, the quality of the jobs is even more so, said Ellen Mutari, a professor of economics at Stockton University and co-author of “Just One More Hand: Life in the Casino Industry.”
“What we should really be looking at is how many of these jobs are full-time positions with benefits,” she said.
July’s employment figures reported to gaming regulators show 73 percent of the industry’s workers were full time and just fewer than 10 percent were part time.
Mutari said letting seasonal workers go each year, which became an industry-wide practice sometime around the 1990s, is “emblematic of trends in the broader economy,” which is “not good for local economies.”
“It’s a shortsighted approach that reflects a shift in casinos being run by corporations, disconnected from their employees,” she said.