The Nation's Pulse

Sharks and Unions

A report from Sea Isle, New Jersey.

By 7.9.08

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SEA ISLE, N.J. -- The big stories here on the beach recently were about sharks and gambling and Donald Trump and gambling.

In shark news, the prize money in this year's South Jersey Shark Tournament was $336,005, plus side bets. The heaviest shark caught was a 582-pound Thresher, winning the top prize of $113,536.

Even with the entry fee of $525 per boat and the burning of 250 gallons of gas, that's still a net profit of $112,000 for one fish. My best fish in a half-century of angling was probably a 6-pound fluke, worth about $15 at current whole-fish prices.

The second heaviest shark was another Thresher, weighing 347 pounds and winning $78,727 in prize money. Third place was a 308-pound Hammerhead, winning $26,443.

There were noticeable and numerous bullet holes in all three of the heaviest sharks when they were raised up on the weighing hook. With a tournament boundary of 60 nautical miles from Cape May, no one wants to make the long ride back to the marina with a live and annoyed shark as a sidekick.

There was no winner of the "$50,000 Monster Shark Bonus," awarded to the first angler who broke the New Jersey state record for a Mako shark or Blue shark -- currently 856 pounds and 366 pounds, respectively, set in 1994 and 1996.

There were also no winners this year for the heaviest Mako or heaviest Blue, with no sharks in either category coming up to the contest's 200-pound minimum.

"Thresher" is derived from the upper fork of the shark's tail, large and sickle-shaped, about equal in length to the rest of the shark's body. Instead of being used on wheat, the Thresher shark's tail is used to sweep small fish in front of the shark for easy eating.

The largest Thresher shark ever recorded, 1,250 pounds, was caught last year off the coast of Cornwall, England. The previous record holder, 723 pounds, was caught off Hawaii in 2005.

Hammerheads can run up to 1,000 pounds and it's said that they generally don't attack humans unless they somehow get it in their strangely-shaped head that they're being cornered.

IN OTHER GAMBLING NEWS, The Press of Atlantic City had photos of an estimated 3,000 union supporters marching down Pacific Avenue, the main drag in Atlantic City -- illegally, i.e., without a permit -- shouting "Negotiate" in support of casino dealers being unionized by the United Automobile Workers.

Vowing that "we're gonna shut this town down," Roy Foster, president of the Atlantic-Cape May County AFL-CIO Central Labor Council, yelled "Let's get ready to rumble" to the protesters before they headed down the street. "I say today it's an eye for eye."

Stopping in front of Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino, the protesters shouted: "Donald Trump, negotiate! Whose city? Our city! No justice, no peace!"

Four days later, the headline in The Press of Atlantic City was about something new at Trump Plaza: "No dealers, but plenty of action at Atlantic City's new automated poker tables."

Reporting that Trump Plaza is "the first gaming hall in town to introduce electronic poker tables," The Press article highlighted a satisfied customer's comments regarding no-dealer tables of poker: "Perhaps the best thing about playing electronic poker, Marc Zahra said wryly, is that you don't have to tip the dealer."

Additionally, said the Press in its front page coverage, "According to Zahra and his girlfriend, Rachael Stalcoskie, who needs human dealers when a machine will do just fine?"

The 10-seat computer-driven poker games have been "a great success in other markets, including Illinois, Connecticut and Canada," reported the Press in another article, adding that the automation is good for people who "love playing poker but don't like to deal with people and their sometimes intimidating personalities."

The "beauty of the automation is that we can go ahead and operate tournaments around the clock," said Trump Plaza general manager Jim Rigot. "There are no concerns regarding staff."

Adding to the bottom line, the automated poker tables play 40 percent more hands per hour as human dealers. "It is also error free," with "no worrying about pushing pots to the wrong customers," explained Rigot. "It's just an all-around winner."

The UAW, reported the Press, had no comment regarding the charge that the union's actions are producing a more automated workplace that could cost its members their jobs, like in Detroit.

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About the Author
Ralph R. Reiland is the B. Kenneth Simon professor of free enterprise and an associate professor of economics at Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh.