WATCH: Documentary Examines Lives of Unemployed AC Casino Workers

2014 was a brutal year in Atlantic City : 8,000  jobs were lost in 2014 after the closure of four of the city’s 12 struggling casinos.

Now the  Media Mobilizing Project has released a documentary , Building a Sandcastle: A Broken Promise to Atlantic City, that tracks the lives of unemployed casino workers from the many high-profile closures that occurred in 2014.

“The casinos industry in this area, and our union, is like the lifeblood of the communities around here,” said Alfred Kare sadly, a server at the Trump Taj Mahal. Read more »

Boutique Casinos Closer to Reality in Atlantic City

Atlantic City at dusk, November 2014

Photo | Dan McQuade

It was more than four years ago that Chris Christie signed legislation approving new boutique casinos in Atlantic City. Despite interest from a few groups and one submitted proposal, no boutique casinos ever opened. Then, four large casinos closed in 2014.

But the interest in boutique casinos remains, and this week an assembly panel advanced a bill that would ease some of the requirements for smaller casinos.

The old bill required one of two boutique casinos to eventually expand to a casino with 500 rooms, and mandated both boutique casinos in the pilot program be new construction. The new bill would eliminate both requirements; the new casinos would still need to have at least 200 rooms to also operate gambling. Read more »

Jersey Man Arrested After Peeing on Casino Slots

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Shutterstock.com

 

A New Jersey man was arrested Friday after he peed in the coin tray of a slot machine at a Pennsylvania casino.

William Compton, a 53-year-old man from Manalapan, New Jersey, reportedly was taken into custody after he refused to leave Parx Casino, and additionally charged resisting arrest by Pennsylvania State Police. Read more »

Will More Atlantic City Casinos Close?

Resorts - Trump Taj

Resorts and the Trump Taj Mahal were the only two Atlantic City casinos that posted operating losses for the first quarter of 2015. (Photo: Dan McQuade)

Atlantic City’s casinos recently reported a bit of good news: Gross casino operating profits more than doubled in the first quarter. The eight remaining casinos made $81.3 million — compared with $38.8 million in 2014.

Obviously, these numbers are skewed: In the first quarter of 2014, casinos had deep losses from Revel dragging down these numbers. But now that Revel and other struggling casinos (and the still-profitable Showboat) have closed, the situation has leveled out. Winter is not the easiest time for a resort town to turn a profit, and all but Resorts and the Trump Taj made money.

But obviously the news can’t be all good for AC’s casino industry. Speaking at the East Coast Gambling Conference on Wednesday, a Wall Street analyst said more casino closures were likely. Read more »

5 Charts That Show Just How Screwed Atlantic City Is

Atlantic City winter beach

Atlantic City in February 2015 (Photo | Dan McQuade)

On Tuesday, Atlantic City’s Chris Christie-appointed emergency management team released its first report. The results were grim.

“The acute financial distress facing the City is imminent and the causes of such distress are not transitory,” emergency manager Kevin Lavin wrote in the report. “Absent an urgent, material realignment of revenues and expenses, this crisis will rapidly deepen and will threaten the City’s ability to deliver and maintain essential government services impacting the health, safety and welfare of its residents.” Christie’s executive order required Lavin and consultant Kevyn Orr, who handled Detroit’s bankruptcy, to issue a report within 60 days.

“It’s actually a lot more severe than we thought when we started 60 days ago,” Lavin said, though he and Orr said bankruptcy was not being considered. Atlantic City has a $101 million city budget shortfall and a $47 million deficit in the school district. The managers recommended $10 million in city cuts, including hundreds of layoffs, and appointing mediators to work with casinos and unions.

New Jersey State Senate president Steve Sweeney lambasted the report: “This report does nothing more than dramatize the fiscal crisis in Atlantic City … Today’s report was 60 days in the making and it reached the same conclusions that we did in November: that decisive action is needed to stabilize Atlantic City’s finances, reduce expenses, protect local taxpayers and reposition the casino industry for future growth.” Sweeney has proposed his own plan that includes a PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) program for the casinos.

Sweeney is right: The report does dramatize Atlantic City’s fiscal crisis. You can read it at the end of this post. But since it’s essentially just a stop-gap report — another one is due in 90 days — let’s take a look at some of its charts that illustrate the bad shape A.C. is in. Read more »

Judge Declines to Approve Sale of Revel to Glenn Straub

A shuttered Revel in November 2014 (Photo: Dan McQuade)

A shuttered Revel in November 2014 (Photo: Dan McQuade)

You’re not going to believe this.

No, wait, you probably will. U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Gloria M. Burns today did not approve the sale of the failed Revel casino to Glenn Straub. The hold-up is a pending appeal by several clubs and restaurants inside Revel that opposed Straub’s purchase of Revel. Burns stayed that sale in January.

Here’s where things get complicated: That sale is actually dead. Straub didn’t complete it. But Revel and Straub then struck a deal for Revel at a lower price. Still, per the Inquirer, the previous ruling means Burns doesn’t have jurisdiction to approve the new sale.

But wait, there’s more. Read more »

Caesars Atlantic City Fined for Losing Two Slot Machines

Bridesmaids Slots

Slot machines in Atlantic City in November 2014

When a casino says it has loose slots, it doesn’t mean this loose.

The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement announced on Tuesday it has fined Caesars $5,000 for losing two slot machines and reporting that all machines had been accounted for. A spokesperson for the DGE said the two slot machines are still missing.

Caesars, which did not respond to a request for comment, reached a settlement with casino regulators over the missing slot machines. Regulators said Caesars discovered it couldn’t find two machines when it was moving machines around in November 2013, but still reported on monthly filings that it knew where all of the machines were.

Read more »

Energy Company Threatens to Turn Revel into $2.4B Fungus Tower

A shuttered Revel in November 2014 (Photo: Dan McQuade)

A shuttered Revel in November 2014 (Photo: Dan McQuade)

The future of the closed Revel casino, Atlantic City’s $2.4 billion boondoggle, continues to be up in the air. Not long after a judge placed the sale to Glenn Straub on hold, the power plant that continues to serve Revel says it will shut off heat, water and electricity at 5 p.m. on Thursday.

Although it’s closed, the building still needs power to prevent the elements from ravaging Revel. “If you shut down the electric utilities to the building, you’re going to get an instant build-up of heat and humidity inside the building [in hot weather], both of which are terrible for finishes, equipment, and everything else that’s inside that building,” Greg Lucado, director of construction-management programs at Philadelphia University, told the Inquirer. “You’ve got a very high humidity environment,” Drexel construction management professor Douglas Carne told the Press of Atlantic City. “That will be almost impossible to control without air handlers operating.” He noted that this would make fungus a factor.

In court filings, a judge wrote that there is no other way for Revel to get power than through ACR’s plant.

Read more »

Christie Announces State Takeover of Atlantic City

Photo | Dan McQuade

Photo | Dan McQuade

Chris Christie took a controversial step today that has some Atlantic City politicians fuming. At his third summit on the city’s future, Christie announced the appointment of Kevin Lavin and Kevyn Orr as emergency managers in Atlantic City. Lavin, the emergency manager, and Orr, his special counsel, will have broad powers in A.C.

Lavin, who most recently worked at FTI Consulting, has years of experience in corporate restructuring. Kevyn Orr was Detroit’s emergency manager during its bankruptcy proceedings.

Detroit emerged from bankruptcy in December, shedding $7 billion of its $18 billion in debt. There are not any immediate plans to push Atlantic City into bankruptcy, though it is assumed they are on the table.

“I don’t think the residents will be very happy,” Chris Filiciello, a spokesman for Atlantic City mayor Don Guardian, told the Wall Street Journal. “They elected the mayor to represent them. He has been fulfilling his duties to the best of his ability and we’d like to know what an emergency manager would do that the mayor hasn’t done already.”

Read more »

Revel Sold to Backup Bidder, Who Plans to Appeal Ruling

revel-closed

Photo | Dan McQuade

Update, 1:45 p.m.: A judge awarded Revel to Glenn Straub‘s company. Straub did not get a discount he’d requested, and has been ordered to pay the entire $95.4 million he bid for the casino.

Straub’s lawyer said he will appeal for a stay of the sale.

Earlier: A federal judge is set to hear arguments today regarding the sale of Revel to Glenn Straub, the man who last year floated plans to buy the casino and turn it into a “university for geniuses.”

Revel, which cost $2.4 billion to construct, has been closed since 6 a.m. September 2nd. But there’s been a lot of news in the past few weeks! Late last year, ACR Energy Partners missed a bond payment and asked a judge if it could cut power to Revel. ACR was created to power the now-shuttered casino, Revel is its only customer.

It’s not clear if Revel can get power from another source; shutting down power to the building could cause it to be ravaged by fungus. “You’ve got a very high humidity environment,” Drexel construction management professor Douglas Carne told the Press of Atlantic City. “That will be almost impossible to control without air handlers operating.” Tenants that operated businesses at the Revel remain locked out and are fearful of ACR cutting power.

Read more »

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