Among workers at Revel there's shock, anxiety, uncertainty, and even some optimism

Dana Flanagan , a cocktail server, is "staying optimistic."
Dana Flanagan , a cocktail server, is "staying optimistic."
Posted: August 15, 2014

ATLANTIC CITY - The 3,200 workers who have made Revel home the last 28 months are hoping against hope that the casino snags a buyer before its targeted Sept. 10 closing to save their jobs and a key piece of Atlantic City's skyline.

If the casino gets shuttered, the vast majority of them will be unemployed and thrown into a glutted labor market that will soon include 2,100 workers laid off at Showboat if it, too, doesn't secure a buyer by Aug. 31, and 1,100 at Trump Plaza when that casino closes on Sept. 16.

"I'm staying optimistic," said Dana Flanagan, 23, of Absecon, who has been a cocktail server at the $2.4 billion casino since it on opened April 2, 2012. "I'm hoping something good happens."

Revel's ownership group, Revel Entertainment Group L.L.C., announced on Tuesday that due to "challenges" in trying to sell the property, it had decided to wind down operations in preparation for a Sept. 10 closing.

But a bankruptcy-court filing on Wednesday by Revel's owner said it was still negotiating with potential bidders and that "as a result of these ongoing negotiations, and in an effort to maximize the prospects for a value-maximizing sale transaction," the auction needs to be postponed indefinitely."

That was little comfort for Victoria Samuel, 20, a supervisor at CORE revelry, one of the stores at Revel's glitzy mall called Shops at the Row. The shop, owned by the Marshall Retail Group, leases space from Revel on the sixth level.

Samuel, of Lindenwold, said many of her coworkers were in limbo, just like herself. If Revel closes, she said it's unclear what happens to the mall.

"I don't know anything, so I can't say anything," she said Wednesday afternoon as she worked the cash register. "We are all waiting to find out" whether Revel lands a buyer.

"I'm waiting to hear so I can start looking for a job, or if they'll transfer me to another casino" to work another retail outlet," said Samuel, who has worked at Revel for a year and a half. "I knew when the casino opened it had problems, but I never thought it would come down to this."

Neither did Ashley Gonzalez, 23, a sales associate a few doors down at Pandora, a national jeweler. A few of the store's glass counters were already emptied and the items boxed up on Wednesday.

"We had a meeting today and decided we needed to prepare in case [the casino] closes," she said. "We started packing up today and are just waiting for the final word. Other stores are packing up, too."

"Shocked" is how Gonzalez described her emotion when notice came down Tuesday that Revel was to close.

"I didn't think it would close," she said. "Everyone that works here was really confident that it would get sold and we were just waiting for the auction. Everyone is in shock. They hit us out of left field."

Revel Entertainment declined to comment on Wednesday as to what the company will be doing to aid employees about to be displayed.

"I feel for these people," said David Fiorenza, an expert on urban and public sector economies at Villanova University.

"Atlantic City has high unemployment already with no casino closings - currently the city has a 9.5 unemployment rate compared with 6.3 percent nationally in June. But now, you have a glut of unemployed workers with a hospitality background, and the winter months are not kind to New Jersey in general because a lot of places close up or are not as busy."

State and Atlantic County officials said they have reached out to all the casinos facing closures - Revel, Showboat and Trump Plaza - and have offered job search and retraining assistance for their affected workers. The same was done in December and early January when the Atlantic Club casino hotel was about to fold. The casino closed on Jan. 13.

"We are offering job retraining and job search services and have food stamps for families," said Atlantic County Executive Dennis Levinson. "We realize that people are going to have to, unfortunately, adjust to the new normal.

"These layoffs impact all of South Jersey, not just Atlantic County," he said. "The workers are coming from all over."

Levinson said the county has established a Workforce Investment Board that has set up shop in the casinos about to close "to let them know what we have available." Workers are taught how to fill out applications and how to dress for a job interview, among other things, at these workshops.

"These are people who have never, ever asked for anything and now need help and a leg up," Levinson said. "We're reaching out with what services are available to them to sustain them during this difficult period."

The state Labor Department has also been actively reaching out to the casinos this summer, after Revel declared its second bankruptcy on June 19.

The agency has been working with officials in Atlantic City, several South Jersey county administrations and their Workforce Investment Boards, and even federal authorities, to link the casino workers who are facing layoffs with new employers before any layoffs occur, said spokesman Brian Murray.

"In the case of the casinos, we became involved when the Atlantic Club first had difficulties, and we've been focused on the potential casino closings since then," Murray said. "Our experience is that people are more successful getting new jobs while they are still employed and should not wait until they are out of work.

"To that end, we have been soliciting and working with employers who want to consider these people for possibly hiring," he said.

The department is also informing casino workers how to file online for unemployment insurance benefits and explore new jobs through Jobs4Jersey.com, where the OnRamp services helps them to create and launch resumes.

Erin Hernandez, 21, of Galloway, is holding out hope it won't come down to that.

She is a server hostess at Yuboka Dim Sum & Noodle, owned by the Garces Group, which sits right next to the gaming floor at Revel.

"This place is beautiful," Hernandez said around dinner time Wednesday as she seated customers. "I love this place.

"The beach is my life and look at that," she said, turning to the ceiling-to-floor windows giving her an ocean view.

"Daily, I get that view, so closing the casino will really stink."

One consolation, she said, is that the Garces Group has offered to rehire all of the restaurant's staff and place them at one of its other restaurants should Revel close.


sparmley@phillynews.com

856-779-3928 @SuzParmley

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