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Union reaches deal with four Atlantic City casinos

ATLANTIC CITY — The likelihood of a strike in the nation’s second-largest gambling market receded on Friday as the city’s main casino workers’ union reached a tentative agreement with Atlantic City’s largest casino company, Caesars Entertainment Inc.

Local 54 of the Unite-HERE union reached the three-year deal with the company’s four Atlantic City casinos: Caesars Atlantic City, Bally’s Atlantic City, Harrah’s Resort Atlantic City and the Showboat Casino Hotel.

Both sides said terms wouldn’t be released until after the union rank-and-file votes on the agreement Tuesday. The casinos had been seeking steep concessions on hourly pay and wanted employees to contribute for the first time to their health and pension benefit costs.

“Both parties put a significant amount of effort into reaching an agreement that preserves the promise of good jobs for workers in Atlantic City casinos, while at the same time ensuring the company moves forward on sound financial footing,” union President Bob McDevitt said.

Don Marrandino, eastern division president for Caesars Entertainment, said the pact was a relief.

“The Atlantic City visitor experience begins with our employees — they are crucial to the success of our industry and that of the destination,” he said. “Reaching a tentative agreement with Local 54 provides that framework and enables us to remain competitive while working together to serve our customers with the utmost level of hospitality — our industry’s most valuable asset and amenity.”

Both sides had said they wanted to avoid a strike that could have been extremely damaging to both sides. Atlantic City continues to struggle with plunging revenue brought on by competition from casinos in neighboring states. Indeed, the deal was reached on the same day that New York City’s Aqueduct racetrack opened its new casino, which is expected to further draw from Atlantic City’s customer and revenue base.

Atlantic City’s casino revenues fell from a high of $5.2 billion in 2006 to $3.6 billion last year, and the resort will show a further decline at the end of this year.

After the ratification vote, the union is expected to take the deal to other casino companies in the city and ask if they, too, are willing to abide by its terms. Those companies include Trump Entertainment Resorts, the Tropicana Casino and Resort, Resorts Casino Hotel and ACH, the casino formerly known as the Atlantic City Hilton, which is trying to find a buyer.

Approval of the pact with the four Caesars casinos is expected; the union’s contract committee unanimously recommended it be accepted by rank-and-file workers.

The union represents about 5,000 cooks, housekeepers, bartenders, cocktail servers and other service workers at the four Caesars casinos, and about 12,000 at the city’s 11 casinos. The only casino not included in the current bargaining is the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, whose contract has 10 months left on it.

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