Gamblers return to Atlantic City, where residents had most to lose

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While a portion of the proceeds from casino revenue pays for big reinvestment and community projects in and around the city, Mr. Hunter said times are tough. He recalled that he began working in the casinos in 1978, but was laid off from his job doing surveillance work at the Showboat.

While he and his mother said they were happy President Obama had toured the area, they didn’t know why he went to neighboring Brigantine instead of Atlantic City. And Mr. Hunter said people in Washington, D.C., need to understand “this isn’t a one day, one week thing.”

Less than a mile away, also on the west side of town, Tom Davidson, director of development at the Atlantic City Rescue Mission, was helping unload trucks full of supplies for the city’s homeless shelter. Not yet 24 hours after the evacuation order was lifted, the shelter already was overbooked.

Usually, there are about 300 people who stay each night, but officials were told to prepare for many more in coming days. There would be the usual mix of the chronically homeless and down on their luck, but the storm was expected to bring in others like waitresses, cabdrivers, food-service employees, hotel housekeepers — people who get by on tips, the lower-middle-class backbone of this city.

Mr. Davidson said Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) officials were setting up extra beds near the mission inside the city’s convention center to handle the increased demand.

“We’ve been operating on very little sleep,” he said, a coffee in hand. “We were told to expect a flood of up to 1,000 people expecting some sort of assistance.”

Two days earlier, Mr. Davidson said he had talked with a local prominent restaurant owner whose business was ruined.

“He lost his restaurant during the flood, it was completely wiped out. There were tears,” he said. “Basically, they donated their entire freezer of food to the mission. But these guys are all hurting because they don’t know how quickly their restaurants are going to be back up. He can’t keep his employees working, and they’re like family to him because they’ve worked for him so long.

“A lot of these guys who own these businesses feel like their employees are family and they worry about them. But then they also don’t know,” Mr. Davidson said. “They haven’t talked with the insurance companies about what the coverage is going to be.”

In neighboring West Atlantic City, which is part of Egg Harbor Township, retired utility worker Joe Peterson said he felt lucky even though most of his downstairs had been flooded and the contents of his garage seemed as if they had been tossed around in a washing machine.

Nearby, other homes were damaged even worse than his property. He heard from neighbors about how a boat broke loose from its dock and slammed around the neighborhood before coming to rest in the middle of a highway.

Mr. Peterson, whose home sits about a half block from the bay, said he thought about staying during the storm but reconsidered when he heard the weather reports grow increasingly dire.

“We knew it was time to leave,” he said.

A few houses away, a big section of dock had come to rest in the front yard of a house with a sign in front, “Julia, World Renown Spiritualist, Reader Adviser, No appointment needed.”

Inside, Herbert Andrews, a construction worker, said Julia was his late mother-in-law and that his wife does the palm readings now. But the family business was closed Saturday night.

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