ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — Carrying identification documents and bitterness over their sudden joblessness, hundreds of ex-casino workers began filing for unemployment Wednesday morning, the first attendees at an assistance center that expects to process 5,000 newly laid-off workers over the next three days.
The session at the Atlantic City Convention Center came after a brutal weekend that saw two casinos, the Showboat and Revel, close. Officials from the state Department of Labor and the main casino workers' union, Local 54 of Unite-HERE, helped displaced workers file for unemployment and gave them information on signing up for health insurance and other benefits.
By mid-September, Atlantic City, which started the year with 12 casinos, will be down to eight, and almost 8,000 people will be out of work. Trump Plaza is closing Sept. 16, and the Atlantic Club shut down in January.
About 300 workers were lined up when the doors opened at 9 a.m.; by early afternoon more than 750 had been processed.
"It's really depressing," said Dale Browne, who worked as a housekeeper at Showboat for 14 years. "People have mortgages, kids in school. We're afraid the crime rate is going to go up. I want to say we'll be all right down the road, but right now, it's rough."
Ruth Ann Joyce and her husband, Michael, were hired together as bartenders at Showboat when it opened in March 1987, and they raised a family on their casino jobs.
"We made good money. We had great benefits. We worked hard and we were rewarded for it," she said. "For the past 27 years, we had the American dream. This closing is a tragedy, and it didn't have to happen."
The state Department of Labor had 40 workers helping applicants register for unemployment and connect with job search resources. Other social service agencies helped enroll them for health insurance and food assistance.
"They don't want to collect unemployment," said Bob McDevitt, Local 54's president. "They just want to get to their next job."
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