Casinos: Five People On The Front Lines

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View original post at PhiladelphiaNeighborhoods.com

Given the size of most gaming operations, it’s often difficult to put a “face” to any particular organization (besides Donald Trump, and he’s largely famous for his other endeavors). Despite this, there’s still a fair number of important people – some within the industry, some who would like to destroy the industry and some who feel the industry helped destroy them. Here’s five people and organizations  to know.

Dan Hajdo, spokesperson for Casino-Free Philadelphia

Since 2009, Dan Hajdo has worked as a spokesperson for Casino-Free Philadelphia. The organization works to stop casinos from opening and to close the ones that already exist.

“Casino-Free has largely been a direct action organization,” Hajdo said. “It’s more grassroots-based. It’s focused on looking into things that will solve a problem we’re looking to solve ourselves or show what’s wrong with casinos.”

Their past events included a sit-in where participants occupied slot machines at SugarHouse Casino so that people would not be able to gamble there.

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Wendy Hamilton, General Manager of SugarHouse Casino

Wendy Hamilton started her career as a hotel guest service representative at Caesars Atlantic City, where she later advanced to assistant general manager. Before SugarHouse, she was the general manager of Parx Casino in Bensalem, Pa. As the general manager of SugarHouse Casino, Hamilton oversees all of the casino’s operations.

Hamilton said, “2014 is going to be a big year for SugarHouse Casino as we begin to grow into the full-service, amenity-rich entertainment destination Philly wants.”

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Joshua Grace, pastor at Circle of Hope

As the pastor at Circle of Hope in Fishtown, Joshua Grace tries to be a good neighbor. He works with multiple community groups to improve their neighborhood and keep it safe. When SugarHouse Casino opened its doors, Grace protested for the well being of people in his neighborhood.

“The first time I was ever at the casino was the day it opened,” Grace said. “We thought we were there to say, ‘Hey, this is not good for you.’ A lot of people who were there were saying, ‘Shut up, get out of here. We want this.’ For me that was disheartening.

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Unite Here

Among the many community benefits the gaming industry typically touts when attempting to open a casino are the new jobs that they’ll create. But Unite Here Local 54, part of a nationwide gaming union – the largest in the world, according to its national website – is looking to have a say in just how good these jobs are, much to the dismay of SugarHouse Casino. In fact, Sugarhouse hired anti-union consultants Kulture in 2010 to help them in this fight. The labor fight at SugarHouse continues and only looks to gain in intensity if and when the new casino opens it doors.

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Jeffrey Scott, gambling addict

It’s not all fun and games at SugarHouse Casino, as Jeffrey Scott, 35, can attest.

“They prey on the weak,” he said. “I started going there after my divorce and kept going several days per week for almost two years, until I was broke.”

Scott represents the dark side of the casino industry, which saw him lose his apartment due to his compulsive gambling habit. He’s since begun piecing his life back together, and regularly attends Gambler’s Anonymous meetings.

“The pull is still there,” he admitted. “It’s not a feeling that’s easily replaced.”

– Text and images by Kayla Cropper and Eric O’Hara

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