Atlantic City Casino Strike Averted

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Members of the Atlantic City casino workers union wait in line. (Photo by KENA BETANCUR / AFP)

A strike by casino workers has been looming for months but ultimately cooler heads prevailed and last-minute negotiations produced a contract to avoid a work stoppage in the Atlantic City gambling palaces.

The Resolution Workers Needed

It is no secret that July 4th brings out the tourists and Atlantic City is no exception to that rule. Therefore, the timing of the threatened strike could not have been worse for the casino operators in New Jersey’s gambling mecca.

But news has broken that Local 54 of the Unite Here union has reached a tentative agreement with the four major casinos, three of which are owned by Caesars Entertainment – Caesars, Harrah’s, and the Tropicana – while the other is an MGM Resorts International subsidiary, the highly acclaimed Borgata.

Union president Bob McDevitt said after the deal was struck in principle, “This is the best contract we’ve ever had. We got everything we wanted and everything we needed. The workers delivered a contract that they can be proud of for years to come.” According to a 24-year employee at Harrah’s, “I’ve been here 24 years and we’ve never gotten a raise like this. We got big raises.”

Pay Raises for Casino Workers

The previous contracts had focused on maintaining the health care and pension benefits but this time around it was all about increasing the wages that had not kept up with the skyrocketing inflation and soaring prices all across the board. Although the union has yet to formally ratify the agreements, it appears to be a done deal.

Prior to the agreement, Ruth Ann Joyce, a bartender at the Harrah’s and Hard Rock casinos, may have summed it up best when she said, “Historically our fights, in general, have dealt with health care. This go-round, it’s about economics. We can’t find workers because there’s no money, and it’s hard to hold onto the workers we do have because they can go somewhere else and make more.”

What About the Other Casinos?

Bally’s and the Ocean Casino Resort were essentially exempt from a strike as they had signed a “me-too” agreement with the unions which meant they would honor any deal that was negotiated with the four major properties. The Hard Rock has not officially agreed to the terms but they will likely fall in line and comply with the union demands now that the contract has been settled. The same can also be said for Resorts and the Golden Nugget.

The union was aware that online gambling had bolstered the casino’s take by a whopping 49% over pre-pandemic numbers in 2019 from January through May. A staggering $1.8 billion combined was hauled in by the Atlantic City casinos but they contend that they only keep 30% of the online profits with the remaining being earmarked for third-party partners.

The owners contend that in-person wagering is the key to the casino’s success and those numbers have not yet reached the 2019 heights. However, the union shed no tears for the casino operators and, in the end, it appears as though the casinos understood the seriousness of the situation and the union’s resolve to take a stand.