Deborah Figart (past president of ASE) and Ellen Mutari (current president of ASE), both of The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, published an op-ed on the casino industry in Atlantic City, New Jersey, yesterday in the Press of Atlantic City. It highlights the stark contrast between the investment in opulence on the part of casino owners and the dire economic circumstances of the workers and families. An excerpt:
In preparation for the new season, the Tropicana Casino and Resort recently unveiled its $50 million facelift at a ribbon-cutting last week, just in time to lure new customers and welcome back old ones. The casino has erected giant LED panels for a new light show. A new granite pathway and coffered ceilings augment a renovation of 434 hotel rooms. New televisions are sprinkled among the table games. With AtlantiCare as a partner, the Trop opened a state-of-the-art fitness facility at the property. One executive boasted that the leg-press machine alone cost $9,000.
Such investments in Atlantic City's business properties are welcome, and increasingly important in a saturated casino industry. The opulence of these facilities, however, contrasts sharply with the Memorial Day 2015 realties of casino workers and former workers. In Atlantic County, as elsewhere in America, working families are feeling squeezed. Beef prices for those barbequed hamburgers are at an all-time high. The prices of chicken and pork are up too due to drought and a virus in the hog industry, as are the prices white bread, iceberg lettuce, American cheese, potato chips and ice cream, the other key commodities measured by Fortune magazine's BBQ Index.
It is almost like a tale of two cities: the Haves and the Have-Nots. Our local economy is still struggling with the closing of four casinos last year and the loss of 8,000 casino jobs. The ripple effects have been felt by businesses, communities and families throughout the area. Unemployment checks are now running out. Those who still have jobs are often working fewer hours, bringing home less after-tip income, and paying more for their benefits packages. And, at the same time that Tropicana Entertainment was shopping for gym equipment and installing the light show, its key investor, Carl Icahn, was cutting payments for health care and pensions for workers at Trump Taj Mahal. This is still being fought in court.