Worker Strike to Cost Casinos $2.6M a Day – Atlantic City Union

By Adam Haynes in Casino
| June 29, 2022 1:17 pm PDT
  • Atlantic City’s Local 54 chapter of the national UNITE HERE labor union has agreed to authorize a casino workers’ strike at any moment after midnight on July 1.
  • Workers pushing for a pay rise to help with a rise in living costs could see casinos lose out on $2.6m a day. 
  • The strike would be devastating to Atlantic City’s casino operators, especially with tourists intending to flock to New Jersey’s famous coastal resort over the 4th of July weekend.

Many of Atlantic City’s casino workers have seemingly had enough.

The UNITE HERE Local 54 chapter has agreed to a strike for all participating members currently working in the region’s many casino businesses. A full-scale casino walkout is being planned, with workers demanding better pay and contractual terms. 

The cost of living crisis has seen the prices of essential items skyrocket. The prices of rent, food, and gas have gone through the roof, and workers claim that their pay should be increased to accommodate these changes. 

The Local 54 chapter has targeted the July 4 holiday weekend for a strike, which they feel would make their voices heard. With no workers to serve customers, those looking to gamble in Atlantic City would likely turn to online casino sites in New Jersey instead of heading down to the coast.

That would be a serious loss of revenue for resorts. According to a report commissioned by UNITE HERE, a strike that takes place over the Independence Day weekend could cost some of the major casinos up to $2.6 million, collectively, per day.

Major Atlantic City Casinos Set to be Hit the Hardest

The union’s report is not an easy read for those behind the Borgata, Caesars, Harrah’s, and Tropicana resorts. 

MGM Resorts Borgata should be hit the hardest, with an estimated loss of $1.6 million for each day of the strike. Those eye-watering numbers have been based on the strike’s effect, which would see gross gaming revenue shrink to 25% in the event of a widescale picket.

Furthermore, those losses have factored in other losses, such as food and entertainment, and have been established on earnings data taken from 2021.

Director of Stockton University’s Lloyd D. Levenson Institute of Gaming, Hospitality, and Tourism (LIGHT), Jane Bokunewicz, does not believe the union’s calculations are correct.

“The casino floors at all properties would remain to function as normal. [Casinos] would use non-union employees and management to keep the hotel and food and beverage sites operating at an acceptable level to attract customers. Revenue losses or gains would depend on how successful they are at doing this.

The COVID pandemic has already hit resorts in the region. Those behind the strike recognize that and believe that it could be a decisive factor in getting what they want. In addition to base rate rises, workers also believe that a more attractive wage would help to alleviate the pressures that have come with understaffed casinos. 

Workers laid off during the pandemic have not been easy to replace. Some have moved into other sectors or have found new work in other parts of the country. This staffing problem has become another headache for casino workers. But one that unions believe could also be solved with better employment conditions. 

Should Casino Workers Earn More Money?

It’s a polarizing subject, but one that will get tongues wagging. Ultimately, anything that instigates discourse is good for casino workers.

Especially when workers stand to lose a lot of their money over the holiday weekend. Many recreational gamblers looking for things to do on July 4 will have targeted a trip to Atlantic City. More visitors than usual head to AC at this time of year; that means that employees are giving up the opportunity to make more tips from a slew of visitors to the casinos. 

Would workers be happy to turn down the opportunity of making more money this weekend to justify the longer game? It seems so.

The last significant strike in Atlantic City was in October 2004. Almost 10,000 hotel and restaurant workers joined the picket line for close to a month, yet no casinos closed their doors. Adjustments were made, such as the closing of some restaurants or bars, but they remained busy, albeit with a lower collection of staff.

The emergence of online casinos in the US didn’t seem to hit casinos as hard as some thought. But lower pay and spiraling prices the average staff member needs to deal with before and after work just might.

If staff are to receive higher wages, how long until another strike? The cost of living is continuing to rise, which means an adjusted pay scale today could, in theory, be insufficient two years down the line. But that’s not enough to say that workers don’t deserve more. What matters is whether the casinos can afford to match their demands.

At a time when finding casino workers is a headache in itself, there is every chance this strike will be a success. 



Back to top