Atlantic City: Casino industry still struggling to fill roles post-pandemic

During a Tuesday labor summit hosted by the Lloyd D. Levenson Institute of Gaming, Hospitality and Tourism School of Business at Stockton University, the ongoing struggle to meet employment needs in Atlantic City after Covid-19 was a recurrent theme, as casinos still face a hard time hiring new workers.

The casino sector has been having trouble filling positions because it’s not “as sexy as it used to be,” said Francis Kuhn, executive director of the Atlantic County Workforce Development Board, as reported by The Press of Atlantic City. 

What you have now is a kind of legacy that was built in, and it’s not a positive legacy for the casinos. The people that we talked to, when you’re talking to them about the opportunities that are here, they say, ‘I know so-and-so who did that, or my mom did that for 20 years, and I don’t want to do that’,” Kuhn added.

He also pointed out that 85% of casino workers stay in their jobs because they have already established a career in the industry, while the other 15%, which includes new hires, are the ones who leave. 

It’s basically people that are coming to seek employment with us that end up on a shift that’s undesirable. And they may at the time accept it, but they don’t last long,” said Bob Ellis, vice president of human resources for Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City, as per Pres of Atlantic City.

In January, the local casino industry employed more than 21,700 people, according to data from the state Division of Gaming Enforcement. The most desirable jobs were front desk and casino gaming jobs such as dealing, as they are more flexible and allow for an easier work-life balance, according to Donna DeCaprio, financial secretary-treasurer for Unite Here Local 54.

I think that transition from unemployment to employment is really challenging, particularly with childcare being an issue, and transportation being an issue,” DeCaprio pointed out. “I think we really need to look at trying to bridge that gap, perhaps offering some type of transitional stipend for childcare and transportation.”

Another reason casinos are short-staffed lies in the lack of people who are eligible for casino jobs. “If workers have a termination from an employer on their record, even if it was 10 years ago, it’s very difficult for other jobs,” DeCaprio explained. 

Casino workers in the state are currently also struggling with another issue concerning their jobs. Back in January, New Jersey workers urged Governor Phil Murphy to call on legislative leaders to pass a bill that would get rid of smoking in Atlantic City gaming properties, as part of their long push to see a ban introduced.

In a letter from the co-founders and co-leaders of Casino Employees Against Smoking Effects (CEASE), workers urged Murphy to push lawmakers to pass bipartisan legislation to close the casino smoking loophole by April 15. The date marks 17 years since the legislature passed the Clean Indoor Air Act, which specifically excluded casinos.