What Are the Odds? (Part 3)
The year was 1981. Atlantic City, New Jersey was thriving as new casinos lined up along the boardwalk, cashing in on the east coast gaming monopoly. The Playboy Club had just opened its doors, attracting young women like Fitzpatrick to move across the country toward the bright, flashing lights, of Atlantic City. Fitzpatrick also says, "I was going to nursing school, ha, stay in school, and I said to my father, ‘I’m going to leave nursing school for one year. I’m gonna’ go to Playboy, be a bunny for one year, see how it goes.’ Well, long story short, 2014, I’m still in the casino business.”
After three years at the Playboy Club, Fitzpatrick moved on to the Trump Plaza Casino as a cocktail waitress and had a good 30 year run until those lights began to fade. Fitzpatrick also says, "We really didn’t think it was going to until all of a sudden they said, ‘Guess what? You’re closing.’"
A failing national economy and out of state gaming competition caused Trump Plaza, along with three other casinos to close in 2014, leaving 8,000 workers unemployed. According to cocktail waitress, Theresa Labastida, it was the media’s portrayal of Hurricane Sandy that put the nail in the coffin. Labastida says, "It had nothing to do with our boardwalk where the casinos were, but seaside, seaside, and people were seeing those images and afraid to come to Atlantic City."
Labastida blames Trump shareholder, Carl Icahn, for not taking care of the property or its people. Labastida also says, "He didn’t want to bring any customers to Atlantic City, he cut out all the busses. I never saw a business try not to make money."
Now out of work, both Fitzpatrick and Labastida are trying to reinvent themselves, along with the city that employed them for 30 years. Fitzpatrick says, "You never thought about what else you wanted to be when you grew up because you worked in the casinos and now here you are, 55 years old, with everybody else out of work."
Labastida says, "The casinos… I have a bad taste in my mouth. I definitely am over the casinos. I’m actually going back to school now for computers. Yeah, I want to do something different." And times are tough. Labastida also says, "My kids are doing community college. They wanted to go away, but unfortunately, we couldn’t afford it. You know, I had to do modifications, apply for assistance, you know things I never thought I would do in my lifetime."
The women are not giving up on the city. They say it has come back more than once. Fitzpatrick closes, “I think the city will come back. You know, everybody thinks Atlantic City is dead. It’s not; it’s just on a hiatus."
Currently, the city is offering job training programs and is holding career fairs to help the unemployed get back on their feet.