Longtime Atlantic City Casino Union Boss Stepping Down

Written By David Danzis on March 13, 2023
Bob McDevitt Atlantic City Casinos

One of the most powerful Atlantic City casino union bosses of the last quarter century is stepping down from his high-profile role later this year.

Bob McDevitt, president of UNITE HERE Local 54, is vacating his leadership position, according to a March 1 letter to the union’s nearly 10,000 members. Effective May 1, he will become chairman of UNITE HERE’s retirement fund.

McDevitt, 61, is Local 54’s longest-serving president, first securing the top spot in 1996.

“It has been an honor to serve as President of Local 54 for the last 26 years,” McDevitt wrote. “I am deeply grateful for the trust and confidence you have placed in me during that time.”

McDevitt leaves Local 54 with sense of ‘pride and accomplishment’

After surviving a near-fatal health issue in the summer of 2021, McDevitt returned in early 2022. He recently won reelection with more than 70% of the members-only vote.

Donna DeCaprio, Local 54’s current financial secretary treasurer and McDevitt’s longtime lieutenant, will succeed him.

“As I move on to my new role, I have a great sense of pride and accomplishment. Together, we have achieved many things, from securing fair wages and benefits for our members, to advocating for important causes that affect our community and the world at large,” he said in his letter.

Love him or hate him, McDevitt’s influence in Atlantic City is profound

Perhaps best known as an antagonist to those in power, McDevitt also courted criticism about how he presided over the largest Atlantic City casino workers’ union.

A 102-day union strike in 2016 led to the closure of the former Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort. McDevitt and the property’s billionaire owner, Carl Icahn, were blamed for the loss of nearly 2,000 jobs. In 2018, when the property reopened as Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City, McDevitt said he felt “vindicated.”

In 2020, McDevitt, along with Resorts Casino Hotel owner Morris Bailey and former New Jersey Senator Ray Lesniak, spearheaded a failed attempt to change Atlantic City’s form of government. Mayor Marty Small Sr. and City Council led a counter-attack that resulted in one of the city’s ugliest political campaigns, with both sides accusing the other of manipulating AC residents.

Last year, contract negotiations between Local 54 and AC’s nine casinos almost led to a Fourth of July weekend labor strike. Ultimately, all seven operators (Caesars Entertainment operates three AC casinos) agreed to new contracts with increased wages and benefits for Local 54 members.

More recently, McDevitt sparred with state legislators in Trenton over a proposed bill to ban smoking in Atlantic City casinos. The union and the casino industry believe a ban will put AC at a competitive disadvantage. Meanwhile, dealers (who are not represented by Local 54) testified in support of a ban arguing their health is more important than the casinos’ bottom line.

Tip of the cap to local media

In 2021, McDevitt suffered a stroke after a battle with sepsis. He was in a medically induced coma for some time and eventually had his right foot amputated.

WPG Radio’s Harry Hurley was the first to report both McDevitt’s health complications and his recent career move.

Photo by AP / Wayne Parry
David Danzis Avatar
Written by
David Danzis

David Danzis is the lead writer for PlayNJ. He is a New Jersey native and honors graduate of Rutgers University. As a newspaper reporter for the New Jersey Herald and Press of Atlantic City, David earned statewide awards for his coverage of politics, government, education, sports, and business. Today, he is PlayNJ’s Atlantic City “insider” and gaming industry expert on casinos, sports betting, and online gambling. David lives in Atlantic County, NJ with his wife and two children.

View all posts by David Danzis
Privacy Policy