NATIONAL GAMBLING IMPACT STUDY COMMISSION
MR. BARRY: Good evening, Madame Chair, ladies and gentlemen.
My name is Bill Barry, and I'm a resident of Barnigan, New Jersey, approximately 40 miles north of Atlantic City. My wife, Lee, and I have lived there since the purchase of our home in 1973.
'73 was a very good year. A new home, the birth of our first child, Melanie. I was working in sales at the time and worked in the New York metro area. This was a big change for me, from a rock and roll musician and junk yard mechanic. A steady paycheck, benefits.
Our second child, William, was born in 1975, and the times were changing. The stability I had thought that I had was no more. Gas shortages, downsizing meant unemployment for me. Six months out of work.
After all, things weren't that bad. My wife was working in banking at the time. I had enjoyed great success in sales as an eastern regional manager, but even with a good resume, there weren't enough jobs to go around.
I ran into an old friend who was working in a restaurant in North Jersey 80 miles from home. It was 1976. I needed work. I did everything in the restaurant, cleaned, kitchen prep., bussed tables, waited tables, swept up every night. I guess looking back now, I guess it wasn't a union shop.
I changed jobs frequently since the rate of pay was always the same, $5 per hour or $25 per shift. Tips and being closer to home was the most important thing in my mind.
The restaurant business in South Jersey is a seasonal one and primarily was held by school teachers who were off from school for the summer. They moved from job to job to work the hottest spot.
I finally found a place in Tom's River 20 miles from home and thought it was my final stop until I answered an ad for a casino bartender in a local paper. I was hired as a bartender November 1980 at the Golden Nugget, and I am now in my 18th years with the casino, and being a member of Local 54 and working in the casino has afforded myself and my family a stable way of life that would not have been possible in the past.
The low wages, lack of benefits, and general working conditions would never have afforded me the peace of mind that I have now. The benefits alone have saved me from financial ruin. My wife has had eight foot operations. My son was hit by an 85 mile an hour fast ball, breaking his jaw in several places, and I have had hand and elbow surgery. Thank God, my daughter through routine check-ups has avoided any major problems.
My wife, who was forced out of banking by the RTC, also holds a casino job as a nonunion cage cashier.
Working in the casinos has enabled us to see our daughter graduate from Stockton College and pursue her Master's in social work, our son graduate from basic training in the United States Marine Corps as Honor Man and is stationed at Willow Grove Naval Air Station as a Reserve in the military police. He is also attending John Jay Criminal Justice School at New York University with the intent of working one day for the FBI.
So as you can see, as a casino worker, the American dream is a reality for myself and my family, and the stability it has given us is something I thank God for every day.
CHAIRMAN JAMES: Thank you.