By Ebony Fleming
In 1976, New Jersey residents voted against legalizing gambling, but just two years later they approved the legalization with restrictions only in Atlantic City. As a result, this lead to the first casino known as the Resorts Casino Hotel, which opened up on May 26, 1978. Politicians and residents of Atlantic City believed that the casinos would be just what was needed to turn Atlantic City around. The construction of the casinos sought to create more employment opportunities for people, as well as to accumulate tourist revenue that would serve as a significant investment to the city as well. New Jersey casinos employed approximately 33,000 employees, attracted 28.5 million visitors, and made $3.3 billion in gambling revenue.
Interviewing my mother, Diana Sanders, opened my eyes to the reality of the casino. While growing up, I have definitely considered my mother a hard-working woman. I can still remember her coming home after a double shift, drained and having a strong cigarette smell to her. She never let me know that she was unhappy, but as a child I could pick up on my mother’s moods and feel it. As I got older, she explained to me why she did not want me to do the same, and how she desired me to get an education, so that I would not have to depend on anything temporary, like the casino.
The shifts in the economy paralleled the success of the casinos. When casino business thrived, so did the economy, and when casino business declined, the economy followed. According to my mother, “the casino took most of my time, so that gaining an education was out of the question. They were paying me so well, that I wouldn’t think about getting an education or pursuing my dreams. The casino was built to suck people dry and spit them out whenever they were done with them.” When the casinos started closing down, many people lost their jobs, creating a huge problem for us all. This forced many residents to move out of their homes and find lower paying jobs that made it difficult to keep up with bills and keep their families fed, and much more.
As stated before, the casinos did not guarantee stable employment. In the past months, four casinos closed and three of the four have recently gone through bankruptcy. Revel filed for bankruptcy for the second time on June 19, Trump Plaza Hotel filed its latest chapter 11 petition on Sept. 9, Atlantic Club filed Nov. 6, 2013, and Showboat filed Jan. 15. The frequency of these bankruptcies results from the opening of many casinos elsewhere. Those who would travel to Atlantic City just to gamble now choose casinos closer to where they live, taking the draw away from Atlantic City. This created a huge problem for the employees because once they began losing money, the casinos could not afford to have as many workers.
This means that the people working at these jobs for years had to be laid off and find employment elsewhere. This means that people were forced to work in places they did not want to work, or work more hours to make less money than they did in the casino. This means that mothers and fathers had to work two jobs just to keep a roof over their heads and provide for their families. This means that the crime rate increased due to the lack of funds families had to survive. However, this also means that people like my mother were forced to get an education to provide for their family, the positive result of the casinos’ closing.