Like other years, 2014 was a time of numerous ups and downs for the American gaming industry. Unfortunately, the year ended with some economic and legislative controversy, including lackluster Internet gaming totals in Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware, plus continued legal sports betting rejections. What happens in one place often impacts everyone working in hundreds of venues in the 40 states with some form of casino gaming. For example, Caesars Entertainment, America’s largest gaming company, faces devastating financial problems for some jurisdictions where they operate. In 2014, the company sold or closed multiple properties, including Atlantic City’s Showboat and Harrah’s Tunica in Mississippi, which laid off 950 people. When the Showboat closed last August, I questioned how a company could shutter a still-profitable property. It seems that for years, Caesars corporate has split its casino properties‘ operations among three separate entities. That worked well enough until it didn’t. The division that operated Showboat has lost billions, so that portfolio became the sacrificial lamb. Ironically, a few miles away at the desirable Atlantic City Marina, Harrah’s, their flagship “jewel” is doing well enough to build an onsite conference center for $125.8 million. It was the luck of the draw for Caesars personnel at the Jersey Shore. Harrah’s, Bally’s and Caesars staff remained employed…Showboat workers were out. Caesars will publicly declare a Chapter 11 bankruptcy this month, splitting its debt-ridden Caesars Entertainment Operating Co., which some analysts claim is “burning through cash.” A separate operating company will manage the casinos, including the Caesars and Bally’s on the Boardwalk. A publicly traded real estate investment trust will own the property. That should save almost $10 billion, leaving them a “mere“ $8.6 billion in debt. The Caesars Acquisition Co. will absorb their prized nationwide assets, including Harrah’s Resorts. The nine Caesars properties on or near the Las Vegas Strip remain unscathed in this overhaul. Of 68,000 overall company employees, 1% will probably be laid off to save money, in addition to the thousands terminated in 2014. Americans are resilient and New Jersey folks are especially tough. Looking ahead, everything old will become new again when Showboat morphs from its silent, vacant space into an exciting new project. Richard Stockton College, Atlantic County’s large regional university with thousands of students, has always wanted to launch an Atlantic City satellite branch, but could never find the right venue. Last month, Stockton bought the Showboat building for $18 million, and will spend many more millions to convert it into a city campus. Guest rooms will become dormitory space and hotel sleeping rooms. The casino, restaurants, lounges and theaters will be renovated into classroom/lecture halls, with dining and onsite parking for thousands. This could transform the neighborhood into a hip college area. Neighborhood gentrification usually brings new tourists and visitors, which could be just what Atlantic City needs to also lure them to the eight remaining casino properties. Several Atlantic City casinos have already enjoyed increased profits as they absorb customers of the four that closed in 2014. The neighborhood’s revitalization by this fall should mean new jobs and an energetic atmosphere that only young people can create. Other jurisdictions should explore similar opportunities. Tough times always test a person’s mettle. Some rise to the challenge; others wallow in their losses. Many newly-unemployed casino workers have begun taking the proverbial “bull by the horns” to reinvent themselves. Retraining programs are available for workers who seek new careers. I too have had to professionally reinvent myself multiple times during my career. It takes effort and commitment. The upside is finding a new adventure that offers greater opportunities, relationships and challenges than experienced in the routine of a former job. That ingenuity and fortitude could become relevant. Competition for employment may heat up this year, thanks to a new immigration scenario. Following the November election, President Obama single-handedly offered legal standing to approximately five million immigrants who have lived and often worked in the US illegally for years. Controversy has resulted not only from Obama’s proclamations, but also his unilateral methods. He has upset many critics and supporters alike who charge him with ignoring the Constitution. I’m unsure how this will play out. Private unions are already actively recruiting these immigrant workers for membership. Could job problems occur? I think so. As Republicans now control Congress and most state legislatures, a new national direction seems inevitable. Quoting that tired 2008 campaign phrase, will this be “change we can believe in?” Time will tell.

Advertisement
0