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Assemblyman proposes trio of casino bills

With just over a month until Showboat Hotel and Casino shuts its doors for good, making it the second Atlantic City casino to close since January, Assemblyman Chris Brown (R-Linwood) is calling for accountability among the city’s gambling houses.

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Showboat Casino Hotel in Atlantic City
Showboat Casino Hotel in Atlantic City (AP Photo/Wayne Parry)

Speaking alongside Congressman Frank LoBiondo, local political leaders and dozens of Showboat employees, Brown laid out three proposed bills he plans on introducing once the Assembly reconvenes. The first would encourage casinos that are closing to try and sell to willing operators, or force them to return the financial incentives they have received from the state.

“If you are going to benefit from tax breaks, grants and incentives, and you choose not to act in the state’s best interest, that’s fine; then pay them back,” Brown said.

The second measure bars corporations from owning more than two casino licenses in the state. Currently, Caesars owns four properties in Atlantic City, including Showboat.

“We need competition in the market,” Brown said. “We need as many operators in town as we can find.”

A third proposed bill would prohibit casinos from putting anti-compete deed restrictions in place, similar to what Caesars did with the Atlantic Club when that facility closed earlier this year.

“When they deed restricted the property, they basically eliminated that owner’s opportunity, or anyone’s opportunity, to be able to operate as a casino,” Brown said.

If the Showboat closes, roughly 2,100 employees would be out of jobs. Many of them have been working at the casino for decades.

“What I make, I’ll never be able to make that anywhere with no education,” said Francine Shertel, a cocktail waitress. “Where am I going to get a job?”

With other casinos also feeling the pinch, Showboat cocktail waitress Melanie Gullespie said it will be incredibly difficult for her to find work to support her 11-year-old daughter.

“There’s seniority (at every casino), and you start from the bottom,” Gullespie said.

Caesars plans to close Showboat Aug. 31, but the casino’s employees are hoping for a last-minute sale. Showboat’s parent company said it would consider selling the property to another casino operator if it made a reasonable offer and could be licensed.

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