N.J. Casino Shutdown

New Jersey shut down all 12 of its Atlantic City casinos for the first time in 28 years after N.J. officials failed to lock down a state budget deal.

New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine addressed the Legislature at the Statehouse the morning of July 5th, defending his position as a stalemate over the state budget entered its fifth day with no deal in sight. Corzine wants to raise the state sales tax from 6 percent to 7 percent to close a $4.5 billion budget gap, but lawmakers have opposed the increase.

When the Legislature missed its July 1st deadline to pass a budget because of the dispute, Corzine ordered the government shutdown.

The closure of the Atlantic City casinos is a particularly hard hit because they have a $1.1 billion payroll, and the state takes an 8 percent cut – an estimated $1.3 million a day.

But with no state budget, New Jersey can’t pay its employees. The casino inspectors who keep tabs on the money and whose presence is required at casinos are off the job and the casinos can’t operate.

At Bally’s Wild Wild West casino, a sign at the entrance read: “We apologize for the inconvenience. We will resume casino operations as soon as a N.J. state budget resolution is reached.”

Up to 15,000 casino employees are out of work because of the closings, and that number could double if the casinos remain closed through the weekend, according to Robert McDevitt, president of Local 54 of Unite Here, a labor union that represents rank-and-file casino hotel workers.

New Jersey parks and beaches were also closed July 5th because of the lack of staff.

Fewer than half of the state’s employees, about 36,000 in vital roles such as child welfare, state police and mental hospitals, remained on the job and were working without pay.