ATLANTIC CITY — Since early 2014, five casinos dealt their last hands, resulting in the elimination of 11,000 jobs.

With the planned opening of two gaming houses this summer, thousands of those positions are coming back.

But will the new properties struggle to attract all the help they need?

"There's not a glut of unemployed workers sitting out there, waiting to be hired," said Bob McDevitt, president of the Unite Here Local 54 casino workers' union. "That pool is not there in the volume that someone would imagine it to be."

The string of casino closures, which ended with Trump Taj Mahal going dark in October 2016, devastated the local and surrounding economy, resulting in a nation's-worst foreclosure rate and an exodus of residents who were either forced out financially or landed casino jobs in neighboring states.

McDevitt added a significant number of former workers entered retirement age in the years since getting laid off. Or they found a spot on the staff of one of the still-running seven casinos.

"At any given time there are several hundreds jobs available in the casino industry," he said.

About 1,600 former Taj Mahal employees were invited, and 1,400 accepted, to apply for jobs offered by Hard Rock, which will open its casino resort at the same site this summer. The property plans to create about 3,000 jobs.

It's expected the former Revel property — newly-named as Ocean Resort Casino — will reopen around the same time. The buyer indicated that 2,500 to 3,000 jobs would be available.

Rummy Pandit, executive director of the Lloyd D. Levenson Institute of Gaming, Hospitality and Tourism at Stockton University, said despite an outflow of residents from the region, there remains a contingency of laid-off workers who may look at the casino openings as a chance to relearn skills and/or change their line of work within the industry.

"People will be changing career paths and looking forward to doing different things," Pandit said. "The opportunities definitely arise because new properties have different systems and methods of operating and hiring and putting people in different job positions."

The mayor of neighboring Egg Harbor Township, James "Sonny" McCullough, said he's hopeful residents who moved out of the area will return with the introduction of two new properties and plenty of job openings.

"If they're offered nice positions, they will definitely come back," he said. "People like to live near the seashore. Once you get sand in your shoes, you want to keep it."

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