Atlantic City casinos shut amid New Jersey budget crisis

Atlantic City, New Jersey (Reuters) – Gamblers in Atlantic City, an East Coast cousin of the more glitzy Las Vegas, were ordered to leave the tables and slot machines on Wednesday because of a budget crisis in the state legislature.

The casinos in Atlantic City, which raked in USD 5 billion of gross gaming revenue last year, are not allowed to operate without state regulators in place and a budget crisis has prompted New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine to order nonessential state employees to be furloughed.

All 12 of the city’s casinos have shut down, said Daniel Heneghan, a spokesman for the New Jersey Casino Control Commission.

B.J. Novak, 56, from Philadelphia, said he left the floor of Trump Plaza at 7 a.m. to get some food. When he tried to get back in shortly after 8 a.m., he was turned away by a security guard.

„I’ve been here all night. I just left to get some food and came back but I guess I didn’t make it,“ said Novak, who had dark circles under his eyes.

„I’m down about 1,200 bucks, now they’re going to be closed for good so I’m not sure what I’m going to do,“ he said.

Corzine was due to address state legislators in Trenton at 9 a.m. on the budget after late night meetings among state legislators trying to reach a compromise on filling the USD 4.5 billion deficit in Corzine’s USD 31 billion budget.

Derek Roseman, spokesman for the Assembly Democrats who have led opposition to a proposed 1 percentage point increase in sales tax, said the budget committee and legislative drafting office had worked late into the night.

Spokesmen for Trump Entertainment Resorts Inc., which operates three hotel casinos, and for Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, a joint venture between Boyd Gaming Corp. and MGM Mirage, said their casinos were closed.

Harrah’s Entertainment Inc., which is the world’s largest gaming operator and runs four casinos in the second-largest U.S. gambling market, could not be immediately reached for comment. Other casino operators in Atlantic City include Aztar Corp. and Colony Capital LLC.

The closure, which could cost gaming operators more than $ 10 million a day in wagers, comes after Corzine shut down nonessential state services on July 1 and a New Jersey appellate court rejected a plea by casinos to stay open.

The casinos bring in hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes for the state every year.

„It definitely doesn’t make any sense, because this is what brings in the money,“ said Cary Putzer, 51, a gambler from Queens, New York, who was playing at „21“ when a loudspeaker announcement told players to leave the tables.

A Borgata spokesman said the casino floor at the opulent Atlantic City property had been closed but other non-gaming facilities were still open.

„There are still customers around,“ spokesman Michael Facenda said. But „the news has gotten out that the casinos have been ordered to be closed.“