Hotel job fair gives hope (however temporary) to laid off Atlantic City casino workers

Industries Associated Press

There were only about 100 jobs available, and most of them will last for only three months.

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But that did not discourage a large crowd of applicants looking for work at The Chelsea, a boutique hotel in Atlantic City. With 8,000 workers having lost their jobs when four casinos closed last year, there were many laid-off casino workers in line Wednesday.

Among them was Ronald Roberts, who lost his job as a cook when the Showboat casino shut down in August. Since then he has had no luck finding work, and showed up at 8:30 a.m. for the 1 p.m. job fair, making him second in line.

"It's been rough, man. Can't find a job," he said. "I've been putting in applications and standing in lines and not getting any call backs. Unemployment is over; I need to support my family."

Roberts ideally would love another full-time job in the industry in which he worked for the past 15 years. But he'll take seasonal work, too.

"As long as I have something coming in, help with the bills," he said.

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Next to him in line was Robert Hall, who hasn't found work since his seasonal job as a cook at the Borgata ended in the fall.

"In this working world, it's really hard to find a job," he said. "I'm searching everywhere I can find, looking online every day, knocking on doors. I want this job bad."

The Chelsea is one of Atlantic City's so-called "boutique" hotels, and does not offer casino gambling — yet. That could change if a proposal in the state Legislature to expand the eligibility for participation in New Jersey's boutique casino program is enacted. It would allow existing hotels with as few as 200 rooms to open a small casino; the minimum is currently 500 rooms.

In Wednesday's job fair, the hotel was looking for restaurant and cocktail servers; bar porters; table bussers; cooks; lifeguards; pool attendants; room cleaners; desk clerks; and other job titles. Chelsea owner Curtis Bashaw said most of the positions are seasonal summer jobs, but added some of the best hires will be kept on permanently.

"The superstars end up staying with us for year-round employment," he said.

He said last year's casino closures expanded the pool of experienced, knowledgeable employees already familiar with the Atlantic City hospitality market.

"Obviously when there are layoffs in a particular marketplace, it benefits those who remain in operation," he said.

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Wayne Parry can be reached at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC