A mass-layoff notice has been filed for Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino, warning that more than 1,400 employees could lose their jobs as the casino transitions to new ownership.

An Atlantic City labor leader said the layoff notice is a legal formality in advance of Trump Plaza’s sale to the California-based Meruelo Group for $20 million.

“I don’t think it’s any indication of closure. I think it’s a function of fulfilling their obligations under the law,” said Bob McDevitt, president of Local 54 of UNITE-HERE, Atlantic City’s largest casino union.

McDevitt said he does not anticipate Meruelo will make job cuts when it takes over as Trump Plaza’s new owner. The sale is expected to close May 31, pending approval by New Jersey casino regulators.

“We think this company will spend quite a bit of money on the property to bring it up to where it needs to be, much like Golden Nugget and Resorts did,” McDevitt said of Meruelo’s expected facelift and rebranding of Trump Plaza.

Ahead of the sale, layoff notices were filed with the New Jersey Department of Labor to comply with the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, or WARN. Under WARN, employers must provide 60 days’ advance notice of plant closings and mass layoffs.

In Trump Plaza’s case, there are three separate WARN notices affecting a total of 1,434 workers. The notices say those workers may lose their jobs effective May 10. However, they also note that the Meruelo Group is expected to offer jobs to “a substantial number” of current employees after it becomes the casino’s owner.

Xavier Gutierrez, president and chief investment officer of the Meruelo Group, confirmed the company’s intention to keep most of the Trump Plaza employees. But he declined to go into detail because plans are still being worked out.

“Absolutely, a substantial number will be rehired, but we’re not sure how that will transpire,” Gutierrez said in an interview Tuesday.

Trump Plaza declined to comment other than to insist that it did not file the WARN notices.

“Trump has not issued WARN notices. That’s my comment. Period,” Trump attorney John Donnelly said, declining to elaborate.

Gutierrez stressed that the Meruelo Group was not responsible for the layoff warning.

“The WARN notices, by law, are issued by the existing owners,” he said. “We do not have the right. We are not the owners.”

Meruelo Group’s purchase of Trump Plaza is seen as a lifeline for Atlantic City’s poorest-performing casino. Trump Plaza plunged to dead last in gambling revenue in 2012 among the city’s 12 casinos, grossing just $102.5 million from its slot machines and table games.

Its downward trend has continued this year. In February, Trump Plaza’s gambling revenue plummeted 42 percent compared with a year ago, according to figures released Monday. It grossed just $5.2 million in February, the lowest amount of all casinos.

Trump Plaza’s sale is just the latest in a series of ownership changes with Atlantic City casinos. Resorts Casino Hotel was sold for $31.5 million in 2010 to New York real estate magnate Morris Bailey. Landry’s Inc., headed by Houston billionaire Tilman Fertitta, bought Trump Marina Hotel Casino in 2011 for $38 million and rebranded it as the Golden Nugget Atlantic City.

Other casinos have filed WARN notices as a legal formality in advance of their sale. In January, a layoff warning was made by the Atlantic Club Casino Hotel, which is being bought by the parent company of online global gambling giant PokerStars for an undisclosed price. Atlantic Club’s sale is pending New Jersey regulatory approval.

Contact Donald Wittkowski:

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