ATLANTIC CITY — Two local groups responded to Revel’s opening-date announcement with mixed reactions Thursday, with one public agency praising the company’s efforts to engage unemployed locals and a union official vowing to organize employees of the casino he described as “an enemy.”
Just after announcing the megaresort will open April 2, Revel Entertainment Group representatives provided details about their plans. Of particular interest to local government officials and workers has been the company’s promise that 20 percent of its work force would consist of unemployed or underemployed Atlantic City residents.
That quota is spelled out in a redevelopment agreement provided Thursday by the Atlantic City Housing Authority, the agency heading the stakeholder group that has worked with Revel in reaching out to the community. It amounts to about 1,100 of the 5,500 people Revel expects to employ at its $2.4 billion facility in the South Inlet neighborhood, according to the company’s agreement with the Housing Authority.
Another 500 or so will work for third-party vendors inside Revel.
Revel officials will not specify how many resort residents have job offers until after they meet Feb. 29 with the stakeholder group.
“We’re not hesitant to provide numbers,” spokeswoman Maureen Siman said. “But (it’s not) just numbers — it’s more about the backstory, who got involved, the numbers of residents who showed interest in working at Revel and finding a way to improve their lives, whether they were employed or underemployed. And part of that story is, at the end of the day, how many (residents) were hired.”
Housing Authority officials did not seem concerned, based on the quarterly progress reports Revel has provided them.
“It is a goal, and they have to demonstrate how they’ve attempted to achieve that goal,” said Ira Fonorow, the agency’s acting director of redevelopment. “And Revel hasn’t been shy or restrained in providing us with that.”
The agreement states that the hiring quota is subject to enough people agreeing to sufficient training and meeting employment standards.
Revel has had 63,000 applicants, 3,000 of whom live in Atlantic City. About 1,800 resort residents made it through the interview process, CEO Kevin DeSanctis said Thursday during a telephone conference about the casino opening.
“Hopefully, people will think we’ve followed the plan we agreed on and fulfilled — in our approach, at least — that we’ve done everything we could,” DeSanctis said.
Siman confirmed Revel has reached project labor agreements with Painters District Council 711, New Jersey Council of Carpenters Local 623 and International Union of Operating Engineers Local 825.
Representatives of those unions did not respond to calls for comment Thursday.
“Local 54 couldn’t have tried harder to kill this project. I have absolutely nothing to talk to them about,” DeSanctis said in response to a question about progress with Atlantic City’s largest casino union. “We’re having no conservations with other unions.”
Local 54 of UNITE-HERE President Bob McDevitt vowed a “very big,” “ground-up” organizing campaign Thursday, the most recent example of the animosity between Revel and the union that has resulted in public rallies, two lawsuits and a failed ballot referendum campaign to prevent government incentives to the casino operator.
“The bottom line is (Kevin DeSanctis) wants to be nonunion,” McDevitt said. “If he declares himself an enemy, we have to treat him like (one).”
Revel obtained a $261 million graduated tax rebate through the state Economic Development Authority’s Economic Recovery Grant program, in addition to more than $56 million from the city government and Casino Reinvestment Development Authority to help pay for infrastructure improvements in the South Inlet. In turn, Revel has paid more than $1.25 million to rebuild Garden Pier and address blight.
“No employer can come into a union town and receive the kind of government largesse he’s received to keep his project going and then declare (itself) a nonunion hotel,” McDevitt said. “The (government has) invested all this money in the project, and the taxpayers funding it aren’t enjoying the benefit of it.”
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