By Hilary Russ
(Reuters) - Workers at four casinos in Atlantic City, New Jersey's gambling hub, will vote on Thursday whether to authorize a strike, which would give them more firepower as they continue negotiating expired contracts.
A yes vote does not mean employees would walk off the job immediately, but it would allow their bargaining committees to call for the measure if negotiations break down.
Four Atlantic City casinos closed in 2014 and remain shuttered, in part because of gambling competition from neighboring states.
There are signs of improvement at the eight that remain, however. Atlantic City casino revenues increased 2.7 percent to $802.6 million in the first quarter of 2016, according to state data.
Last summer, workers at the Trump Taj Mahal, founded by Donald Trump but now owned by billionaire investor Carl Icahn's Icahn Enterprises LP, agreed to allow a strike if needed but have yet to call one, according to Unite Here Local 54, the union representing the workers.
Thursday's strike vote pertains to the Tropicana casino and two properties, Caesars Atlantic City and Bally's Atlantic City, currently owned by bankrupt Caesars Entertainment Operating Company Inc.
Also included in the vote is another Caesars property, Harrah's Atlantic City, controlled by a separate unit not in bankruptcy..
Altogether, an affirmative vote on Thursday would mean that about 6,000 workers across five casinos would be authorized to walk off the job. The polls close at 8 p.m. Eastern time.
Unite Here said workers agreed to wage freezes during the recession, and now those with 25 years on the job have had only 80 cents in total raises over the last 12 years.
Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the union's appeal of a lower court ruling allowing the Taj Mahal to break its contract in order to secure a bankruptcy deal.
Separately, a U.S. judge on Wednesday temporarily halted lawsuits seeking $11.4 billion in damages from Caesars Entertainment Corp. in the bankruptcy of its operating unit.
(Reporting by Hilary Russ in New York; Editing by David Gregorio)