After one career in the U.S. Air Force and another setting up banquet halls in Atlantic City casinos, Ronnie Downing found himself out of a job and medical benefits when the Revel hotel shut its doors this month.

He and hundreds of his colleagues turned to Obamacare.

As many as 400 people among 2,500 who signed up for a Sept 10 job fair in Atlantic City asked about enrolling in health coverage under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, illustrating the law’s potential safety-net role in an economy still buffeted by headwinds.

Before Obamacare, workers cut adrift when their employers closed shop had to rely on expensive temporary insurance, take their chances with private coverage or, most often, go without. Now, they can get federal subsidies designed to help low-income people pay for medical care, and insurers must allow them to enroll even with pre-existing medical conditions.

“It opens up a new opportunity for them that never existed before,” said Maura Collinsgru, a health-care advocate at New Jersey Citizen Action, a non-profit organization. “This is just a snapshot at a larger scale of what happens every day across the country. Individuals who lose their jobs can now have an opportunity to get coverage not only for themselves but for their families.”

Plunging Employment

With the closing of Trump Plaza today, the city this year will have shed about 8,000 jobs, a quarter of its casino workforce. Another 2,800 workers may be looking for employment soon: Trump Entertainment Resorts Inc., which filed for bankruptcy Sept. 9, said it may close Trump Taj Mahal in November without union concessions.

Collinsgru, whose organization was at the Sept. 10 job fair helping displaced workers understand Obamacare, said about two- thirds of the 300 to 400 people who asked about the program qualified.

Downing, 56, was born and raised in Atlantic City, which was the top U.S. East Coast gambling destination until competition in neighboring states led to seven straight years of declining revenue. He served in the Air Force for 15 years before going to work for casinos.

When Revel, Atlantic City’s newest venue, opened in 2012, Downing began working there as a steward. The $2.6 billion hotel, meant to lure destination travelers rather than day trippers, ceased operations Sept. 2.

Obamacare “defines directly what the government’s role is,” Downing said in an interview during the job fair. “The government should lead you in the right direction and be there to catch you in case corporations don’t follow through.”