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Delay sought in Atlantic City casino closings

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — Three Atlantic City-area lawmakers want state casino regulators to force the Showboat and Trump Plaza casinos to remain open at least four more months to let prospective buyers kick the tires.

Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino
Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino (AP Photo/Wayne Parry, FILE)

Sen. James Whelan (D), a former Atlantic City mayor, and Assemblymen Vince Mazzeo (D)  and Chris Brown (R)  wrote Tuesday to the state Casino Control Commission asking for the delay.

Both of the casinos recently sent out letters to their employees warning them their jobs are expected to end within two months. The Showboat is due to close Aug. 31, Trump Plaza two weeks after that.

The lawmakers said two months’ notice “to many 20-plus-year employees is wrong and unrealistic.”

“Given the complexities of the situation here in Atlantic City, this two month timeframe is simply not enough time for potential buyers to do the appropriate research that acquisition of either property may require,” they wrote in a letter to commission chairman Matthew Levinson.

The lawmakers said the casino companies’ interest is to shut them down as quickly as possible and begin transferring customers to other properties they own. But the public interest is in keeping the casinos open and their thousands of jobs intact, they wrote.

“It would be a nightmare for Atlantic City to have a string of vacant properties along the Boardwalk like Atlantic Club, a situation orchestrated by joint venture between Caesars and Tropicana,” added Whelan and Mazzeo, who are Democrats, and Brown, who’s a Republican.

The Atlantic Club was bought in a bankruptcy court auction last December by Caesars Entertainment, which is the Showboat’s parent company, and Tropicana Entertainment. It was stripped of its assets and shut down on Jan. 13 in the name of reducing competition in Atlantic City.

The lawmakers also say companies that close a casino should not be allowed to bar a new owner from running the site as a casino. Caesars has included deed restrictions when it sold the Atlantic Club and the former Claridge casino to a Florida firm that plans to run them as non-casino hotels.

Levinson said his agency is studying the request, including whether it has the power to grant it.

“I certainly share the very serious concerns they raised about the welfare of workers and all of the businesses that will suffer if casino properties close their doors,” he said. “While our authority is broad in some respects, and our ability to direct business decisions of the casinos is limited under the Casino Control Act, the current circumstances are unprecedented and present novel issues which we have been and will continue to review.”

Trump Entertainment Resorts declined to comment. There was no immediate comment from Caesars Entertainment.

Besides the Atlantic Club, Trump Plaza and the Showboat, Revel also could close by September if a buyer cannot be found in a bankruptcy court sale next month. Atlantic City, the nation’s third-biggest casino market after Nevada and Pennsylvania, began the year with 12 casinos, but by fall it could have only eight.

(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed)

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