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Atlantic City casinos shut down

12 facilities forced to close due to budget battle in New Jersey

TRENTON, N.J. - If there’s one sure thing in this city of uncertainties, it’s always been this: Casinos find a way to keep the dice rolling.

Until now.

Atlantic City’s 12 casinos — from the three Trumps to the Tropicana — shut down their gambling floors Wednesday morning for the first time ever, their hand forced by a stalemate over the state budget.

The casinos’ hotels, which attract millions of gamblers and vacationers every year, will remain open because they don’t require state involvement in their day-to-day operations, but no gambling will be allowed because the state casino inspectors who keep tabs on the money are off the job until lawmakers approve the budget. State parks and beaches will also close because of the lack of staff.

Minutes before the 8 a.m. deadline Wednesday, gamblers were still at the slot machines with their cups of coins.

“What else can you do down here besides gamble?†said Janice Sidwa, 60, who was in the midst of a four-day trip to the city.

Missed deadline

The problem started when the Legislature missed its July 1 constitutional deadline to pass the budget. Gov. Jon S. Corzine ordered state offices shutdown Saturday, all non-essential state government operations closed, and furloughed more than half the state’s employees.

Only about 36,000 people in vital roles such as child welfare, state police and mental hospitals remained on the job.

Without an approved spending plan, New Jersey can’t pay its state employees.

That means state parks, beaches, campgrounds and historic sites are also closing down — another smack to residents, with school out and the summer heat sizzling.

The casino shutdowns are a particularly hard blow to the state’s coffers as lawmakers fight over how to close a $4.5 billion hole in the governor’s state budget.

The Atlantic City casinos have a $1.1 billion payroll and spend billions more on goods and services. The state gets an 8 percent cut of their revenue — about $1.3 million a day.

“They’re going to lose a lot of money,†said Jerome Harper, 42, of Philadelphia, who was playing the slots at Resorts Atlantic City. “It’s bad. Why close it down when you could just do your job and put the budget together? That’s what they’re paid for.â€

The Legislature, meanwhile, is under orders to get to work.

New address by Corzine

Corzine planned to address all 120 state lawmakers again Wednesday morning about the impasse.

The dispute — between the governor and his fellow Democrats who control the Legislature — centers on Corzine’s plan to raise the state sales tax from 6 percent to 7 percent to help overcome a $4.5 billion budget deficit in his $31 billion spending plan. The proposal would cost the average New Jersey family an estimated $275 per year.

Casino executives were busy trying to make sure the shutdown was orderly.

Up to 15,000 casino employees would be thrown out of work by 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.

Police Chief John Mooney worried that the sudden evacuation of the casinos could lead to problems with drunken driving, street crime and labor unrest. If the shutdown continues, casino workers who aren’t being paid could make trouble, he said.

“This is a state-created disaster,†Mooney said.

The gamblers were well aware of the loss for the city.

“This is what brings the money in,†said Bertha Arrington, 57, of Baldwin, N.Y., sitting at slot machine Tuesday.

© 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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I'd have to go with what the 60 yr old lady Janice Sidwa said," That there isn't shit to do in Jersey besides gambling."

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Guest HouseJunkie

I'd have to go with what the 60 yr old lady Janice Sidwa said," That there isn't shit to do in Jersey besides gambling."

I beg to differ, there's a lot of shit in Jersey.

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Guest coach

If I lived there, and especially if I ran or worked at a casino, I'd sue the fucking balls off the city officials, throw their ass in jail for dereliction of duty and run them out of office on a pole. This kind of shit is total bullshit. We elect these fuckers to serve our needs and this is the kind of crap they pull.

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