Showboat Atlantic City will close on Aug. 31, company officials announced Friday.
Gary Loveman, CEO of Caesars Entertainment, which runs Showboat and three other Atlantic City casinos, called the closure “a necessary step to help stabilize our business in Atlantic City and support the viability of our remaining operations in the vicinity.”
The company said Showboat’s 2,100 employees will be given preference for open positions at Caesars’ other local casinos — Bally’s, Harrah’s and Caesars — and at other properties in the region.
Vincent Chaimey, a 37-year Pleasantville resident and server who has worked at Showboat for eight years, said he’s not certain about taking Caesars up on that offer.
“I’m not sure that I want to bother with the casino industry again,” he said. “I want to find something more stable.”
But he didn’t fault Caesars for the planned closure: “I don’t blame them. It’s more or less the economy.”
Another Showboat employee, Michele Jackson, 27, of Somers Point, wasn’t so forgiving.
“How do I feed my family? How do I provide? There’s nothing else we can do but go to the welfare building and go to unemployment,” she said. “I want to work.
“It’s not like they’re not making money. They’re making money. Why are they going to close us down?”
Showboat made nearly $2 million in gross operating profit for the quarter ended March 31. It made almost $8.5 million during the same quarter last year.
Bob McDevitt, president of Unite HERE Local 54, said “the fact that Caesars would close a casino that continues to be profitable … is a criminal act upon the citizens of Atlantic County.”
Matthew Levinson, chairman of the Casino Control Commission, said Caesars should sell Showboat, not close it.
“The best outcome at this point would be for Caesars to sell the property to an operator who can keep it open and keep all these people employed,” he said.
Showboat would be the second Atlantic City casino to close this year. The Atlantic Club closed in January after Caesars and Tropicana Entertainment bought it in a bankruptcy sale. About 1,600 workers lost their jobs.
Last week, Revel Casino Hotel announced it would close and terminate its nearly 3,200 employees by Sept. 1 if it can’t find a buyer.
Michael Pollock, managing director of Spectrum Gaming Group, a gaming consulting firm, said Atlantic City’s struggling casino industry is a symptom of casino growth across the country.
“Gaming has expanded from coast to coast, and the continuing expansion in the east has essentially surrounded Atlantic City’s core markets, from eastern Pennsylvania to Delaware to Maryland to New York,” he said. “That has precipitated the decline, because so many core customers now have options, many of which are closer to home.”
Mayor Don Guardian, speaking at a press conference at the construction site for Bass Pro Shops, said better days are on the horizon.
“This is the future of Atlantic City,” he said, referring to the site. “We need the noncasino attractions to move ahead.”
Vin Narayanan, editor-in-chief of the gaming-trade publisher Casino City, remembers the heady days of 1987, when Showboat had just opened. It quickly became one of Atlantic City’s premier destinations.
“When you thought about going to Atlantic City and having fun, the Showboat was one of the places that came to the top of the list,” he said.
But as time passed and new casinos opened, Showboat lost its luster.
“It got eclipsed,” Narayanan said. “It got eclipsed by the Trump Taj, and it got eclipsed by Revel, and it got eclipsed by the Borgata. And it went from the ... cool place to have a little low-budget fun to the place that wasn’t on anyone’s itinerary.”
In 2005, Showboat opened the $65 million House of Blues complex, which included a 2,400-person-capacity concert hall.
That, Narayanan said, “was a huge deal. It injected some life into Showboat, and they got some good music booked.”
But that changed, too, he said. “You had other casinos getting into the booking of entertainment, and if you take a look at it now, a lot of top-notch entertainment goes through Atlantic City. It just doesn’t go through Showboat any more.”
In the end, Narayanan said, Showboat didn’t keep up with the times. “And if you don’t keep up with the times, you’re going to end up closing.
“And it’s a shame, because it was a good place while it lasted,” he said.
Staff Writer Braden Campbell contributed to this report.
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