Sunday, August 31st, was a bittersweet day at the Showboat Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey. It was the last day the casino would open its doors to patrons, who came in droves to share in the final moment of the establishment’s iconic history. In the final moments, the single blackjack table that remained opened dealt its final hand to a full semi-circle of seated players.
“Last hand,” called the pit boss as players ponied up their concluding bets round the blackjack table. As the cards were dealt, there was a resounding groan from the crowd when the dealer’s face-up card turned out to be the Jack of Hearts. One by one, the contenders cautiously played out their hands until it was finally the dealer’s turn. Tabling a 4, the crowd’s spirits immediately perked back up. With 14 showing, forced to dispense another card to herself, the dealer busted on another Jack.
Those who won rejoiced, as did the multitude of onlookers, but in the end, it was a nostalgic moment for everyone. The casino staff gathered, sharing well wishes and hugs between the dealers, floor managers, security and slot machine attendants, as well as those players who had become familiar faces among the crowd. As everyone made their way out of the 127,000 square foot casino floor, heads were hung low and tears flowed freely.
Caesars Entertainment, the company that owns the Showboat in Atlantic City, announced that it would be closing its doors earlier this year due to the waning gambling market in the Garden State. The company also operates Harrah’s, Bally’s and its namesake Caesars Casino. With revenue falling year after year, company officials stated that it was a necessary sacrifice to ensure the resilience of its other destinations in Atlantic City.
While the reasoning is hard to argue with, the final hand of blackjack didn’t just mark a turning point in history, but the resulting unemployment status of thousands of casino employees. Two days later on September 2, the Revel Casino also locked up its doors for the last time. Between the two now defunct Atlantic City casinos, an estimated 5,000 people are said to be out of work, and it will only get worse two weeks from now when the Trump Plaza is slated to close on September 16, putting another 1,100 New Jersey residents in the unemployment lines.
Workers at the Showboat Casino have spent months imploring directors to sell the casino, rather than shutting it down. Caesars openly stated that it would be willing to consider any reasonable offers. Just last week, reports indicate that the casino was toured by an “interested party”, but the very next day the company announced that the popular New Jersey blackjack destination would, in fact, be ceasing operations on Sunday.
The UNITE HERE Local 54 Union that represents the employees of Atlantic City’s casinos opened a resource center at 9:00am on Wednesday at the Atlantic City Convention Center. But with 5,000+ people out of jobs and thousands more to come, it’s uncertain just how much the Union will be able to do to help those in need. One employee by the name of Joan stated that she is contemplating moving back to Pennsylvania because the chances of finding a job in New Jersey at this point in time are incredibly low; certainly much lower than the odds of winning big at the casino blackjack tables.