Tropicana's bad hand Union blames job cuts for casino's poor health inspection review Tuesday, October 23, 2007 Atlantic City's largest casino union fired another volley at the owner of the Tropicana yesterday, issuing a stinging report charging that the casino made such severe cuts in the number of employees responsible for keeping it clean that it now accounts for a disproportionate number of "unsatisfactory" reports from city health inspectors. The report also said the reason Tropicana officials have cited for its poor performance -- construction disruption that caused the shutdown of up to 500 slot machines on the casino floor -- was not reflected in records from the Casino Control Commission, which showed that the highest number of machines not in operation over the past year was 100. The report was the latest in a string of charges Unite Here has levied against Tropicana and its owner William Yung. The hospitality union represents 16,000 A.C. casino workers and has been embroiled in a bitter labor dispute with Yung in Las Vegas. Yung spokesman Hud Englehart said officials were reviewing the report and were not prepared to comment yesterday. The report comes as Yung and the Tropicana are gearing up for a licensing hearing before regulators next month, and as the casino has struggled more than any other against competition from Pennsylvania slot parlors. For the first nine months of the year, A.C. casino revenue fell 1.5 percent. At the Tropicana, it has plunged 9.9 percent. Bob McDevitt, president of Local 54 of Unite Here, has attributed the decline to job cuts -- nearly 20 percent of the Tropicana's staff has been slashed since Yung took cover in January. "What they're doing is strip-mining," McDevitt said. "There's no way they can win that market battle. ... They cannot be successful operating as a second- or third-rate property." That concern was echoed yesterday by Assemblyman Jim Whelan (D-Atlantic), who said the casino was not being maintained as a first-class facility, a requirement under the Casino Control Act. "That's not really the direction Atlantic City should be going -- running these places on the cheap," Whelan said. Although McDevitt has said in the past the union may ask to object to Yung's license qualification, he said yesterday the union was "watching this application process very closely" and would "act in whatever way bests protects our industry and our members." Yung has said one of the reasons he wanted to buy Aztar, Tropicana's former owner, was because of its inflated staff levels. But the Unite Here report said Aztar had already reduced Tropicana's work force by 635 workers, or 12.3 percent, in the year before Yung bought the casino. Since Yung bought the Tropicana, it has lost 896 jobs, or 19.9 percent of its workforce, the report said. In comparison, eight other A.C. casinos have together cut 717 jobs. One department that faced severe cuts was environmental services, which keeps the casinos clean. The report said the department's work force has shrunk 64 percent, to 72 people, and those employees are responsible for cleaning twice as much space as the industry average. Unite Here also said that while the Tropicana accounts for less than 10 percent of the total casino floor space in Atlantic City, it racked up 22 percent of all "unsatisfactory" or "conditionally satisfactory" city health reports.