Bob McDevitt

‘It’s always good to win’: Unite Here Local 54 President Bob McDevitt, left, defeated challenger Al Tabei for a fifth consecutive time in a union election Friday.

ATLANTIC CITY — Bob McDevitt secured another three-year term as president of the local casino workers union Friday night, defeating perennial challenger Al Tabei.

McDevitt, 57, will remain president of Unite Here Local 54, a position he has held since 1996. He received 932 of the 1,596 votes cast. The winning slate included Vice President Javier Soto and Secretary-Treasurer Donna DeCaprio, both incumbents.

“It’s always good to win,” McDevitt said after the results were announced.

Voting at the Atlantic City Convention Center ended at 7 p.m., but officials had to wait on results from polling locations in Cherry Hill, Trenton and Harrah’s Philadelphia in Chester, Pennsylvania.

Tabei, 67, who has challenged McDevitt in five consecutive elections, said he would be contesting the results of the election. He said 152 ballots will be challenged because the members were not up to date with union dues.

“The results are questionable at this time,” he said, noting some casinos only allowed members a small window to leave work and vote, which was an issue for some due to long lines at the polls.

Tabei also lamented the low turnout this year. He said it was the “lowest turnout ever in the history of Local 54.”

“That goes to say a lot,” Tabei said. “That is bad for the membership, bad for the city, bad for the community. It’s just bad all the way around.”

Local 54 represents nearly one-third of Atlantic City’s casino and hospitality workers, including restaurant, housekeeping and environmental services employees.

McDevitt said Local 54’s focus would now shift to upcoming industrywide bargaining negotiations set to begin in 2020.

“Having a win like this” is a good way to go into negotiations, McDevitt said.

Although workers at Ocean Casino Resort have not yet voted to become Local 54 members, the expectation is they will before the 2020 bargaining begins. Employees of Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City — which opened at the site of the shuttered Taj Mahal in June 2018 — recently voted in favor of unionizing.

The Atlantic City casino industry is rebounding after a tumultuous 10-year stretch between 2006 and 2016. In 2006, total gaming revenue hit an all-time high of $5.2 billion from 12 casino properties. But by 2016, revenue had fallen to $2.6 billion and only seven casinos remained open by year’s end.

McDevitt and Local 54 were at the forefront of the industry’s struggles in 2016, when workers at the Taj Mahal went on strike. For more than 100 days, McDevitt sparred publicly with the Taj Mahal’s owner, billionaire Wall Street investor Carl Icahn, over contract negotiations. Icahn closed the Taj in October 2016.

Last summer, the former Taj Mahal property reopened as Hard Rock, prompting McDevitt to say the union was “vindicated” for holding its ground against Icahn.

Last year, the Atlantic City casino industry reported a third consecutive year of total gaming revenue growth. According to the state Division of Gaming Enforcement, more than $2.9 billion in revenue was reported from the resort’s nine casinos.

The casino industry also employed more than 30,000 people in 2018 for the first time since 2014.

Contact: 609-272-7222 Twitter @ACPressDanzis

Staff Writer

I cover Atlantic City government and the casino industry since joining The Press in early 2018. I formerly worked as a politics & government reporter for NJ Herald and received the First Amendment: Art Weissman Memorial NJPA Award two years in a row.

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