Atlantic City’s largest casino union’s leader is calling on the state to impose restrictions protecting the jobs of 3,000 Revel Casino Hotel employees in the case of a sale.
Rumors of potential buyers have swirled for months as management has openly pursued a sale of Atlantic City’s newest casino. In recent weeks, local politicians have acknowledged that Caesars Entertainment and Hard Rock International are among the interested parties.
Now, UNITE-HERE Local 54 President Bob McDevitt is addressing what he calls “a widely circulated suggestion” that new owners might temporarily shut down the casino for renovations. That could mean that Revel’s workforce could be laid off or forced to reapply for their jobs if the casino reopens under new ownership, he said in a letter Monday to the state Investment Council, which oversees the state pension fund.
Long a vocal critic of Revel, McDevitt blamed the casino’s opening for the recent closing of Atlantic Club Casino Hotel, which employed 1,600. He suggested that any more layoffs could be detrimental to the already-impacted casino workforce. Revel’s workers, however, are not union.
“We find it outrageous that Revel, a casino that received over $300 million in state subsidies and that contributed to the cannibalization of the Atlantic City market ... could now end up throwing another 3,000 hard-working men and women back into a very difficult job market, or make them reapply for jobs that they are already performing,” McDevitt wrote.
McDevitt said the Investment Council should require Chatham Asset Management, which holds a 22 percent stake in Revel and is licensed by the Casino Control Commission, to ensure that any party to purchase the casino be bound to retain the existing workforce.
Chatham is part of a group of lenders that took ownership of Revel following the casino’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy last year. The deal reduced Revel’s debt from roughly $1.5 billion to $272 million, providing breathing room for the property as it developed new strategies.
In calling on the state to intervene, McDevitt referenced a Nov. 21 decision by the Investment Council to approve a $300 million investment in New Jersey-based Chatham. The state is now the second-largest investor in the firm.
“These investments follow a long string of New Jersey governmental support for Revel and its owners,” McDevitt said. “From the outset, the state has justified its interest in Revel with the promise of jobs, but has shown little regard for the workers who filled those jobs, or for the workers who lost their jobs, in part, due to Revel’s unwelcome contribution to overcapacity in the Atlantic City market.”
Revel representatives would not comment Monday. Lisa Johnson, a spokeswoman for Revel, declined to provide an updated employee count for the casino. Local 54 said the casino employs 3,000.
Bill Quinn, a spokesman for the state Department of the Treasury, said Monday night he could not immediately comment on Local 54’s letter.
The union also cited recent support from Assemblyman Chris Brown, R-Atlantic, in its request to the state. In a recent letter published in The Press of Atlantic City, the assemblyman also addressed the possibility of a temporary shutdown saying that language should not be accepted as code for “backdoor layoffs.”
“If it takes the state to require the disclosure of an employee protection plan as a condition of licensing a new casino operator, this is fine by me,” Brown wrote.
On Monday, Brown acknowledged his support for Local 54’s stance and said Revel’s success should “not come at the expense of the hardworking men and women who built the industry.”
Brown is not the only Trenton lawmaker commenting on Revel’s potential sale. Last week, state Sen. Jim Whelan, D-Atlantic, said Caesars Entertainment should not be allowed to purchase the casino because the sale would violate state law forbidding “undue economic concentration.” Caesars already owns four Atlantic City casinos and accounted for roughly 38 percent of the state’s $2.9 billion industry last year.
In Monday’s letter, McDevitt also questioned the state’s decision to invest in Chatham, saying that the state is the first large state pension fund investor the company has attracted in a number of years.
“We would be very interested to learn about the process by which Chatham was selected from the scores of similar funds engaged in similar strategies,” McDevitt wrote. “We respectfully suggest that the impact of Chatham’s decisions on the economy of South Jersey should also be considered. After all, plenty of New Jersey state employees and retirees call South New Jersey home and have spouses or loved one whose livelihoods are tied to the health of the casino industry.”
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