By Seth Grossman, Political Columnist
Reprinted from Current Newspapers of Atlantic County, New Jersey, November 22, 2006
?The Sands Casino Hotel closed in October,? and its 2,000 employees lost their jobs.? Since then, federal, state, and local? politicians have spent millions of our tax dollars to help them.?? Dozens of well paid federal, state, and county government employees are giving advice to ex-Sands employees on how to prepare resumes, look for other jobs, getting re-training, qualify for food stamps, subsidized housing, and other benefits, and cope with the stress of unemployment.??
The UNITE HERE (Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees)? Local 54 Union ‘persuaded’ the new owners of the Sands properties to pay $2 million in severance benefits to the 600 Sands employees who were union members.?? (It comes to $3,333 each.)?? One well meaning sales company from the West Coast even offered ex-Sands employees franchises to sell their exotic tropical health drink.
But nobody offered any of the 2,000 ex-employees of the Sands what they need most liberty.?? Because if New Jersey really believed in the rights guaranteed by our state constitution, the skilled, motivated, and charming casino employees of the Sands would be free to organize, open, and operate their own casinos.? Many would succeed–if they had the opportunity.?
?But, of course, they don’t.?? Since 1978, the New Jersey Casino Control Act requires every casino to be part of a 500 room hotel.? That law was made for one reason, to give Resorts International, Inc. a two year monopoly for all casino business in Atlantic City and the whole East Coast.??? Resorts International was New Jersey’s first casino company.? When it moved in, it hired some of the most powerful politicians in New Jersey, from Sheriff Job in Bergen County, to our own late Patrick McGahn.? A big chunk of the compensation was paid in Resorts International stock that went from $2 per share at the 1976 vote to more than $140 per share in 1978 when the Resorts casino opened.?? When the legislature was writing the Casino Act, Resorts owned the mammoth Chalfonte-Haddon Hall, the only hotel in Atlantic City? that could quickly meet a 500 room requirement.
Because of that 1978 law, only a handful of massive, international corporations can own casinos in Atlantic City.?? They all play ball with New Jersey?s ruling politicians.? They all force their employees and contractors to join the politically powerful construction unions and UNITE HERE Local 54.
The politicians claim that the 500 room requirement for casinos promotes ‘construction and development’ in Atlantic City.?? But that is ridiculous.?? Ten new small casino hotels with 50 rooms each would bring just as much ‘construction and development’ as one big 500 room hotel.??? New Jersey’s ‘Monopolies R Us’ casino policy is a failure.? There were 311 independent bars and restaurants in Atlantic City in 1978 when the first casino hotel opened.?? Now, there are fewer than 70.? Only one non-casino hotel was built in Atlantic City since 1978, and that was because it got big tax abatements and subsidies from the taxpayers.
?The politicians say they need the 500 hotel room requirement for all casinos, so Atlantic City can return to its former glory.?? That is a lie.? Atlantic City’s former glory was built on liberty.?? That liberty allowed a starving Lebanese acrobat named George Hamid to first perform on the Steel Pier, and then buy it and turn it? into a world class attraction.?? It allowed non-legal casinos to bring first class entertainment to the 500 Club, Club Harlem, and dozens of other night spots.?? It let poor families with few skills rent rooms upstairs, serve meals downstairs, use their private cars as taxis and jitneys, and become wealthy business owners within a few years.?
?Article I, Section 1 of the New Jersey Constitution says:? ?
“All persons are by nature free and independent, and have certain natural and unalienable rights, among which are those of? enjoying and defending life and liberty, and of acquiring, possessing, and protecting property, and of pursuing and obtaining safety and happiness”.?
?If judges in this state gave real meaning to those words, they would? declare that the 500 room requirement of the Casino Act violates the natural and unalienable rights of citizens who want to own and operate casinos.?? If that happened, many of? the unemployed floor managers, supervisors, dealers, and hotel and restaurant hotel workers from the Sands would have a chance to turn some aging, rundown building in? Atlantic City into another 500 Club or Club Harlem.? If we had liberty, a lot more people would have prosperity.?