Atlantic City residents react to casino closings

  • Cierra Martin, 18, was born and raised in Atlantic City and recently graduated. “My family is going to be affected by the casino closures because they have to care [for] their families and children. That’s going to affect their children in the long run and its hard to get a job nowadays. My dad worked at Trump Plaza, he got laid off. I think the city is really going to go downhill, because the casinos are where we make most of our money.” Photo taken on Aug. 28, 2014.
  • Jean Powell, 45, has lived in Atlantic City for 13 years. “The casinos don’t help the community. Look around. Once it gets cold it’s going to be a ghost town.” Photo taken on Aug. 28th, 2014.
  • Michael Crews has lived in Atlantic City for 10 years. He is an artist and has worked in the casinos for nine years. “If people lose their jobs, they have to figure out what’s next. Beyond the casinos, many have limited skills. You need to ground the people back to reality.” Photo taken on Aug. 31, 2014.
  • A postcard rack at the Trump Plaza gift shop, Atlantic City, N.J., Aug. 29, 2014.
  • James Donnell, 25, works in security at Showboat. “I think what’s happening is Atlantic City is falling apart, to be honest with you. You have three casinos going down in a month, that’s crazy. There’s nothing in Atlantic City but the casinos. You go to high school then you get a job at a casino. My first job was at Ceasers. Then to Atlantic Palace. Then to Revel, to Showboat and now two of the casinos where I make my income from are closing.” Photo taken on Aug. 30, 2014.
  • Debbie Huey has worked at Trump Plaza for 30 years. She is a hotel cashier supervisor. “I thought I’d be retiring from the casinos. At 50 and starting all over again, it was very shocking. I started in the casinos at 19 and I thought I’d be finishing with the casinos. Its like loosing a home. It’s like a second family. We all work together and you feel like your loosing more than just your job.” Photo taken on Aug. 29, 2014.
  • Tony Ingram, 60, is a lifelong Atlantic City resident. He has worked at Showboat for 28 years as a porter. “Well, since this is closing down, I ain’t going to rush, I’m going to take my time. I haven’t had a vacation since I been here yet … So I’m going to take it easy on myself, ‘cause I’m a diabetic. Sometimes even a job like this, sometimes it stresses you out. I got three more years to go until I retire. I’ll be alright.” Photo taken on Aug. 30, 2014.
  • Ronnie Downing, recently let go from his position at the Revel Casino Hotel (seen in the background), tends to his back garden. Photo taken on Aug. 28, 2014.
  • Guests swim in the rooftop pool during the Revel’s final weekend in operation, Aug. 29, 2014
  • Naeem Tariq, 26, is originally from Pakistan, but he has been living in Atlantic City for the past five years. He works at 24-7-Deli. “The closings are going to hurt us a lot. I’ve been working at this store for five years and there used to be a big line all day and all night. Right now we have very few customers.” Photo taken on Aug. 28, 2014.
  • Ella Johnson, 58, is a lifelong resident of Atlantic City. “Its going to affect so many families and people. Where are they going to find work? I don’t know what’s going to become of it. The city was down and the casinos brought it up for a minute but now it’s no telling what the future is going to be. It’s not the same as it used to be. Its almost like we are facing another depression with these closings.” Ronald Davis (right) works at Ocean View Facilities. “It seems like everything is downsizing now. I think the city is going down. Atlantic City used to be the most popular but now people are going elsewhere.” Photo taken on Aug. 28, 2014.
  • Karina Guevara has worked at Trump Plaza for 18 years as a hotel cashier. “The people here are truly my family. They have been with me through hard times. I was going to lose my home four years ago, but they just modified me and with me loosing my job here I think I am going to lose my home because I won’t be able to pay the $900. I have four children to feed, and it’s really going to affect me. My plans are to look for another job, but with almost 7,000  people loosing their jobs it’s going to be hard out here.” Photo taken on Aug. 29, 2014.
  • Abdul Shasib has lived in Atlantic City for 15 years. He is originally from Bangladesh. He has been working as a rolling chair operator on the boardwalk for five years. “This is a really low point for the city. When September and October comes, you can’t even make like $800 for your rent. How are you going to survive with your family? If I sit down here and wait for next summer to come, I may not exist on this boardwalk. I don’t know what’s going to happen after this month. Basically the casinos just want to take everybody’s money and get out of here.” Photo taken on Aug. 29, 2014.
  • Matt O’brien, 20, is a lifelong Atlantic City resident, and a grounds keeper for the casinos. “Once this season ends, three casinos close and then all the seasonal guys that got hired are going to get laid off and then there will be no work for anybody. I think the city will probably go down to about eight casinos and that’s where its going to level out for now. Its not going to be easy to find work especially as I’m young and I’m on the bottom of the food chain as far as experience goes. I’m just going to have to keep going to school and try to find something.” Photo taken on Aug. 29, 2014.
  • Leon Mosby Ambrogi has lived in Atlantic City for two years and works in produce delivery. “We are going to lose stops and we are going to lose money. We are going to lose Showboat and all the restaurants in there and at Revel. Less hours, less money. Hopefully my company will keep me working. Hopefully it turns around.” Photo taken on Aug. 29, 2014.
  • Whitney Brown, 23, is a lifelong resident of Atlantic City. She used to work at the Revel casino. “I have kids to feed and bills to pay and there aren’t enough jobs in Atlantic City.” Photo taken on Aug. 29, 2014.
  • A hotel guest on the roof deck at the Revel Casino Hotel on Aug. 29, 2014, just days before it’s closing its doors for good.
  • Ruthanne Joyce worked for 28 years at Showboat casino as a bartender. She has two sons. “My husband and I came here 28 years ago. We were hired as husband and wife and we made very good livings. And now to close a profitable casino and put 2,100 people out of work, I just don’t understand it. It’s devastating to the employees. In an eight-month window of time, there will be 8,000 families kicked to the curb after making millions of dollars for casino owners and millions of dollars for the state of New Jersey. The domino effect of 8,000 families is going to be devastating to this area. What will people do?” Photo taken on Aug. 29, 2014.
  • Baheejah Rasheed, 27, is a lifelong resident of Atlantic City. She worked at Revel for three months in guest care. “The city thrives off of the casinos, so when they shut down, where is the money going to come from to help the city? There’s going to be no jobs for anybody. What are we going to do? This is the best, and actually the only opportunity in the city. Other than the casinos, there’s just retails jobs at the outlets and they’re seasonal.” Photo taken on Aug. 31, 2014.
  • Squid, 46, has lived in Atlantic City for 30 years, and he currently works as a parking lot attendant. “It’s going to be a long, cold winter. It’s going to [be] really, really rough. This is the first time I’ve seen the city like this. This really takes the cake. It hurts to see this happen to the people here.” Photo taken on Aug. 29, 2014.
  • Guests swim in the rooftop pool during the Revel’s final weekend in operation, Aug. 29th, 2014.
  • James Washington, 51. “I’ve been here my whole life. What I love about AC is the beach and the casinos. We were shocked that these casinos were closing down because the majority of them have been here for years. I think the crime rate is really going to shoot through the roof, because there’s going to be a whole lot of people out of work. This block here is bad enough; you know what I mean, but it’s getting ready to get worse.” This photo was taken on Aug. 30, 2014.
  • MD. A. Jahed he has lived in Atlantic City for 12 years. He’s originally from Bangladesh. He works as a taxi driver. “You know, the closings, it’s dangerous. It’s very hard to tell you, we don’t know what we are going to do. Next month everybody is scared about this. Business is slow but when they close the three casinos, what’s going to happen to this city? We don’t know. This is going to be dangerous, for our lives. We really don’t know what’s going to happen but it’s not going to be better, not going to be better. I think it’s going to be a big problem.” Photo taken on Aug. 30, 2014
  • Kelli Kelsey, 29, is a lifelong Atlantic City resident. She is the mother of two sons. “My building sits on the boardwalk, right across form the Revel and I saw the property battle because they tried to buy my building and put us out of it. They kicked a lot of people out of their homes, some of those homes they tore down. Some of those blocks are empty, completely empty and they are still tearing some of those homes down for a casino that was up for what, maybe two years and now it’s flopping. Now it’s over and it’s just a big skeleton and all the money they put into the casino they could have put into fixing Pacific Ave., Atlantic Ave. and to the playgrounds. They could have put it into the community. It’s basically a giant mirror.” Photo taken on Aug. 30, 2014.
  • Latoya Dunston is lifelong Atlantic City resident. She worked at Revel since it opened in guest care. She is Atlantic City’s X-Clusive drill team coach. “Today was my last day working at Revel. Now without a job it’s going to be hard to provide for my family. It’s going to be really hard for all of us. We’re all going to be fighting for employment. My job not only provided for my family but it provided for the drill team as well. I have my own five children but to be exact I have 50 kids because the drill team are my children. We’ll have to find a way. It’s just going to be harder now. Drill team is family, it’s life.” Photo taken on Aug. 31, 2014.
  • Hotel guests sit on the roof deck at the Revel on its final day open, Sept. 1, 2014.
  • Zashim Chowdhury has been a taxi driver for six years. He is originally from Bangladesh. “Please pay attention to us drivers. We don’t have any unemployment benefits. We have nothing. We survive from our salary as taxi drivers. Please pay attention to us Atlantic City cab drivers and help us as soon as possible.” Photo taken on Aug. 31, 2014.
  • Hotel guests rest in the lobby of the Revel during its final day open, Sept. 1, 2014.
  • Lights out at the hotel tower of the Revel Casino Hotel in Atlantic City on Aug. 28, 2014.

of

Updated

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. – The sun-soaked, cloud-piercing Atlantic City skyline still sparkles to drivers coasting down the long stretch of expressway leading to the many hotels and casinos here. They come in search of entertainment, family fun on the boardwalk, or perhaps just the chance to score tremendous wealth with a single pull on a slot machine’s arm. From afar, Atlantic City still looks like a dream.

But up close, the Atlantic City reality is veering toward nightmare territory. 

Several casinos have shuttered or will soon. Others are just drab shells of their former selves. Business is down, and tourism is plummeting. Atlantic City is in big, big trouble. And that’s a problem for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

In 2011, Christie placed a big bet on the struggling city, spearheading a five-year plan to resuscitate “America’s Favorite Playground,” which had fallen victim to the proliferation of neighboring states’ casinos and the recession. But with two casinos having closed their doors in the last week, plus another one planning to later this month – and approximately 6,000 people set to lose their jobs – this is a bet that Christie is clearly losing. What that means for his presidential prospects in 2016 remains to be seen.

Revel, an ultra-modern, $2.6 billion casino that opened in April 2012, shut its doors over the weekend. So did the Showboat casino, after 27 years on the boardwalk. Trump Plaza’s last day is Sept. 16.

City officials have announced a governmental program that includes job training in an effort to find alternative employment for affected workers. But laid-off employees aren’t optimistic.

Debbie Huey, a hotel cashier supervisor at the Trump Plaza for 30 years, said, “I thought I’d be retiring from the casinos. At 50 and starting all over again, it was very shocking.” She added, “I started in the casinos at 19, and I thought I’d be finishing with the casinos. It’s like losing a home. It’s like a second family. We all work together and it feels like you’re losing more than just your job.”

Latoya Dunston, a lifelong Atlantic City resident, has been working in guest care for Revel since it opened. Now the mother of five children doesn’t know what she’ll do. “Now without a job, it’s going to be hard to provide for my family….We’re all going to be fighting for employment.”

The closings of the casinos are also sparking fear of spillover affects, such as housing prices tumbling and surrounding businesses taking a hit.

Ron Dibona, a hotdog and snack vendor who has worked in the city for 25 years, sat underneath a tree – a stone’s throw away from Trump Plaza – observing passersby walk right by him at lunch time on a recent afternoon.

“Business was bad this summer already. With the closings, it’s gonna hurt us even more,” said Dibona, who said he cut his work days down to three. “It’s hard to be here looking at everybody walking by and not making money,” said the 63-year-old, recounting the throngs of people who would line up at his cart decades ago.

“Now it’s a ghost town,” Dibona added.

John Francis Peters is a Los Angeles based photographer specializing in documentary and portraiture.

For more feature photography, go to msnbc.com/photography

 

Speak Out