Atlantic City casino workers plan protest over benefit cuts

Reuters News
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Posted: Jun 17, 2015 2:25 PM

By Bill Sokolic

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (Reuters) - The largest union representing workers at Atlantic City, New Jersey's hard-hit casinos plan to rally outside the Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort on Wednesday to protests a bankruptcy court-approved cut to benefits for some 1,000 casino workers.

The protest over cuts sought by billionaire investor Carl Icahn in exchange for keeping the casino open comes at a time when the Jersey Shore resort city is suffering as gambling revenue drops and casinos close.

Gamblers placed about $2.74 billion in bets at Atlantic City casinos last year, down 4.5 percent for the year and well below the $5.2 billion peak in 2006 before neighboring states allowed casinos to open. Four Atlantic City casinos closed last year, with the Taj Mahal narrowly surviving after a cash infusion from Icahn.

The local chapter of the UNITE HERE union that organized Wednesday's planned protest said the cuts took an unreasonable toll on casino staff.

"The workers lost their health insurance, retirement security, job security and even their paid lunch breaks,” said Ben Begleiter, a spokesman for Local 54 of UNITE HERE, which represents food and beverage and housekeeping staffers, among others.

Trump Entertainment Resorts, which is no longer controlled by developer and presidential candidate Donald Trump, expressed disappointment with the proposed rally.

"Taj employees do not benefit from this type of disruptive conduct," the company said in a statement. "It is unfortunate that Local 54 leadership is willing to sacrifice the wages and tips of its members by actively attempting to persuade customers and conventions to boycott the Taj Mahal."

Hundreds of casino workers joined a similar protest in October, and 24 were arrested for blocking streets.

Icahn also owns the Tropicana Casino & Resort at the other end of Atlantic City's boardwalk.

(Editing by Scott Malone and Bill Trott)