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Caesars Says It Will Close Showboat Atlantic City Hotel

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) -- Casino contraction hit Atlantic City again Friday, as the parent company of the Showboat Casino Hotel announced it will close the Mardi Gras-themed casino on Aug. 31.

Caesars Entertainment said Friday morning the company will shutter the poorest-performing of its four Atlantic City casinos.

CEO Gary Loveman said in a statement that the "difficult decision'' is necessary to protect the rest of its business in Atlantic City, where it currently owns four of the 11 casinos.

"While we regret the impact that this decision will have on our Showboat associates, we believe this is a necessary step to help stabilize our business in Atlantic City and support the viability of our remaining operations in the vicinity,'' he said. "Since 2006, revenue in Atlantic City has declined by more than $3 billion and competition in the city has increased. The dynamic in Atlantic City has led us to the difficult but necessary decision to close Showboat.

Caesars Says It Will Close Showboat Atlantic City Hotel

"We sincerely appreciate the service, dedication and professionalism shown by the employees of the Showboat over the years to provide our customers with incredible experiences,'' he said.

It will be the second casino to close this year in the nation's third-largest gambling market. The Atlantic Club closed in January, taken down in a bankruptcy sale by Caesars Entertainment and Tropicana Entertainment, who stripped it for parts and closed it to reduce competition.

And, Revel Casino Hotel has warned it might shut down if a buyer can't be found in bankruptcy court.

Bob McDevitt, president of Local 54 of the Unite-HERE casino workers' union, said he planned to spend the next few days talking with Showboat employees.

"I'm heartbroken and angry, too angry to respond in an effective way,'' he said.

Thursday night, when he revealed that Caesars planned to issue warning notices to Showboat workers that the casino might close, McDevitt called the company's threat to close a profitable casino "a criminal act.''

Showboat employees shared their displeasure with CBS 2 sister station KYW's Cleve Bryan.

'I have four kids. Who's going to have my benefits?" bartender Elizabeth Merriman said.

"It's heartbreaking. I have a daughter. It's scary. It really is," server Melanie Gillespie added.

Gaming consultant Frank Catania said he was surprised Caesars made the move to close the Showboat so soon, but said he thinks there are too many casinos in Atlantic City.

"There has to be a closing of some of the casinos," he told WCBS 880's Levon Putney. "By Showboat closing, it's going to help the other casinos."

Mayor Don Guardian told Bryan the closing of the Showboat is part of Atlantic City's inevitable need to change from relying so heavily on casinos.

"There is a pain as we get through this transition, but it's critical that Atlantic City realizes that we're no longer the monopoly on the East Coast for gaming," Guardian said.

Caesars said the Showboat will remain fully operational until Aug. 31. Guests with reservations after that date will be assisted in finding new accommodations, Loveman said.

In addition to the Showboat, Caesars Entertainment owns Harrah's Resort Atlantic City, which ranks second to the Borgata in the amount of money won from gamblers each month, Caesars Atlantic City, and Bally's Atlantic City. It also owns a casino in neighboring Pennsylvania.

In January, Gov. Chris Christie called 2014 a "pivotal" year for struggling Atlantic City casinos and said "we have to start showing significant results."

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