Showboat workers protest August closing
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) -- Chanting "Keep Showboat open," hundreds of casino workers and supporters staged a noisy, enthusiastic protest Thursday night on the Atlantic City Boardwalk aimed at getting the owners of the Showboat Casino Hotel to reverse their decision to close it next month.
More than 400 protesters marched from a small park near the Boardwalk to Caesars Atlantic City, where a small group met with a labor attorney for the parent company that owns both casinos.
The attorney promised to meet with union officials Aug. 7, but could not answer their immediate questions, said Donna DeCaprio, secretary-treasurer of Local 54 of the Unite-HERE casino union, which organized the protest.
"We're going to keep fighting this," she said.
The still-profitable Showboat is one of three Atlantic City casinos that could shut down by September. Trump Plaza plans a Sept. 16 closure, and Revel could also close if a buyer is not found in a bankruptcy auction next month.
That could put 8,000 workers on the streets within a few weeks. Atlantic City started the year with 12 casinos, but could end the summer with eight. The Atlantic Club shut down in January.
"It's a tragedy, what's happening here," said Curtis Wade, a cook at the Showboat for 27 years. "We're a profitable casino; there's no reason to shut us down."
Speaking to Caesars Entertainment, the casino's parent company that announced the Showboat closure to reduce competition in the saturated Atlantic City market, Wade said he felt betrayed.
"You said we were like a family, and if we worked hard, we would all prosper," he said. "Now you're turning your back on us. After 27 years, now you say you don't need me."
Wade and others said they believe other companies are interested in buying the Showboat; Caesars said recently it would consider selling it instead of closing it if a good offer materialized.
"Showboat is a good, viable property," said Eve Davis, a cocktail server there. "If Caesars doesn't want it, fine. Sell it. We just need someone to come in here and love it."
Caesars Entertainment issued a statement saying it has no new information on the status of the Showboat, adding it plans to meet with workers next month to share any updates by then.
The protesters chanted loudly, blew whistles and beat drums at the entrance of Caesars, where a half-dozen security guards milled about at the front entrance.
Many protesters carried hand-made signs excoriating Caesars Entertainment; several included unflattering photos of company CEO Gary Loveman. One read: "Mr. Loveman: Please let Me Keep My Job." Others said: "Atlantic City: Broken Promises."
Bob McDevitt, the union president, said he was pleased at the political and public support for keeping the Showboat open so far.
"I have no doubt that if they continue the pressure and community support that Caesars will have no choice but to do the right thing," he said.
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