The Tropicana Casino and Resort in Atlantic City said Friday it has reached an impasse in contract talks with the union, and will not bargain any further.

The casino said it will implement its final offer in 30 days with or without union approval. Tropicana president CEO Tony Rodio said the casino is prepared to withstand Atlantic City's first casino strike since 2004, if that's what it comes to.

But the union, Local 54 of Unite-HERE, said both sides are nowhere near an impasse, and predicted the National Labor Relations Board will agree if the casino follows through on its threat to impose a contract on the union.

He said the dispute is over contributions to an employee pension fund. The Tropicana will stop making payments into a national fund, instead giving workers the option to take a cash payment, or have the money put in their 401k plans.

"This is better for our employees," Rodio told The Associated Press. "The money goes directly for the benefit of our workers instead of into a multi-employer fund that the federal government says is in critical condition and chronically underfunded."

He said the contract Tropicana will impose is identical in virtually every respect to contracts the union reached with the four Caesars Entertainment casinos and the two Trump Entertainment Resorts casinos in Atlantic City. The only difference is that the Tropicana would be making its payments directly to its employees instead of into The National Retirement Fund, a nationwide fund into which casinos, hotels and other businesses contribute.

Rodio said the fund is underfunded by $1.4 billion and was deemed to be in "critical status" in 2010 because of that liability. He said the casino has drawn up contingency plans to withstand a strike, should it come to that.

But Bob McDevitt, Local 54's president, said the Tropicana has wrongly declared an impasse, noting the union has had talks with the casino's parent company throughout January.

"I'm very comfortable that we are nowhere near an impasse," he said Friday. "Maybe in his world they are. But in the United States, in the real world, that's just not the case."

McDevitt could not immediately say whether the union would consider striking against the Tropicana. The union's 2004 strike lasted 34 days and inflicted serious damage on both sides before a pact was reached.

In addition to the six casinos with whom contracts were signed in 2011, the union also has a contract in effect with the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa through this September. It does not have current deals with Resorts Casino Hotel, the Golden Nugget Atlantic City, or ACH, the casino formerly known as the Atlantic City Hilton.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)