Since July, as the casinos reopen in AC, there has been an improvement in the unemployment figures. As casino employees return to work, the number of Garden State residents filing for first time unemployment fell 17% to 13,822. Those are the lowest numbers of new unemployment claims in five months.
The trend is similar to the trend nationally, with less than 1 million people filing a first-time unemployment claim, the lowest level since March.
Casinos Reopen in AC, But It’s Not Quite Over
Since mid-March, when Governor Phil Murphy ordered the shutdown of the casinos, 1.5 million New Jersey residents have filed for unemployment. Moreover, many New Jersey residents have been waiting for months to receive any unemployment benefits. As the casinos reopen in AC, unemployment and the disruption of daily life continues.
New Jersey residents are demanding answers, and they’ve been contacting their state representatives for relief. Recently, the New Jersey State Senate Labor Committee passed a bill demanding a statewide audit of the unemployment division and the mishandling of many thousands of unemployment claims.
To assist Atlantic City’s small businesses, some of which remain closed by order of the governor, Bergen County has extended its small business grant program. Business owners who missed the opportunity on the first round can apply for aid until Aug. 21. Eligible businesses can get up to $10,000 in grants to help them remain open.
However, almost half of New Jersey’s business owners expect it will take 10 months or longer to generate profits on par with pre-COVID levels. Furthermore, 12% of small business owners do not believe they ever will get back to pre-COVID profits. Unfortunately, New Jersey business owners believe the impact of the state’s COVID-19 shutdown and the painfully slow reopening will hurt them for quite some time.
While more New Jersey businesses reopening is good news, the operating restrictions placed on businesses impact their profitability, making recovery a long, stressful road. Businesses still under an enforced shutdown may not recover at all, and simply close their doors for good.
AC Casinos Slowly Regaining Traction
In order to provide more jobs for New Jersey residents, the casino industry, labor unions, and local government have applauded a proposal to phase out J-1 visa workers in favor of local residents. J-1 visa holders are foreign workers and students employed by Atlantic City’s casinos. While the number of J-1 workers varies from year to year, there are usually several hundred, at least.
The casino workers’ union Unite Here Local 54, the Casino Association of New Jersey, and the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, along with the city and state government, will create and implement vocational training programs for local residents, to prepare them for jobs at the casinos.
Online and Mobile Gambling Keep Tax Dollars Flowing
Due in part to the 4-month casino shutdown, online gambling in New Jersey surged. Online and mobile gambling revenue increased by 122%, raking in more than $87.5 million. That’s quite an improvement from last July’s $39.3 million. May was also a record-setting month for online and mobile gambling, bringing in $85.9 million. While the shutdowns devastated much of New Jersey’s economy, it pushed online casino revenue to new heights.
Despite the shutdown of major league sports, online and mobile sportsbooks remained afloat by offering betting on everything from Russian ping pong matches to Nathan’s Famous hot dog eating contest. In fact, sports betting gross revenue climbed by 65% compared to last summer.
New Jersey’s online and retail sportsbooks brought in more than $315 million in July alone; that’s up more than 25% from last July’s $251.4 million. Even better, July’s sports betting revenue was up more than 90% from June.
As casinos reopen in AC and visitors continue to come back, the outlook for Atlantic City continues to improve.