Gov. Chris Christie vowed Thursday to do everything he can to help laid-off Atlantic City casino workers find new jobs after the hotels they work for close next month.
Revel Casino Hotel, the city's newest resort, announced this week that it will shut down in September after just over two years in business. Atlantic City started the year with 12 casinos but will have just eight remaining by fall.
"I am engaged, I am working and we're going to do everything we can to try to make sure that we keep you safe and secure and employed," Christie said as he kicked off his latest "No Pain, No Gain" summer town hall event in Ocean City.
Previous town hall events this summer have featured protests by retirees and political and labor groups. But Thursday's ranks were dominated by casino workers who urged Christie to do more to help save their jobs.
"He should be stepping up and do something to help these families that will be devastated," said one of the protesters, Paula Dougherty, who works as a cocktail waitress at the Trump Plaza, which is scheduled to close Sept. 16. She said her husband is a dealer at Revel and was told his last day would be Sunday.
Christie told those gathered that he couldn't force private businesses to stay open, but he reaffirmed his commitment to the city.
"I'm going to work as I hard as I can with you and for you to make sure that you're working. And that's the best that we can promise each other," he said.
Christie announced Wednesday that he will be convening a summit Sept. 8 with stakeholders, including political, business and labor leaders, to discuss Atlantic City's changing landscape as the casino industry suffers from competition from neighboring states. He urged workers to support the effort.
"The only way we're going to fix this is for all of us to get around a table and come up with solutions," he said. "We can't wave a magic wand."
Cindy Pemberton, 50, from Hammonton, who works in food service at Showboat, noted to Christie that by the time the summit happens, her hotel will be closed. Caesars Entertainment has said it will close the Showboat on Aug. 31.
Christie said conversations would be continuing with casino operators over the coming days. He said he thought the effort would be successful.