Wednesday, November 26, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Casino workers protest closing

More than 400 marched in A.C. to fight for a reprieve for the still-profitable Showboat.

ATLANTIC CITY - Chanting "Keep Showboat open," hundreds of casino workers and supporters staged a noisy, enthusiastic protest Thursday night on the Boardwalk aimed at getting the owners of Showboat Atlantic City Hotel & Casino 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 close if a buyer were not found at 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 its doors in January.

"It's a tragedy, what's happening here," said Curtis Wade, a cook at 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, which 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 believed other companies were interested in buying Showboat; Caesars said recently that 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 issued a statement Thursday saying it had no new information on the status of Showboat, adding it planned to meet with workers next month to share any updates.

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 handmade 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.

"I have no doubt," he said, "that if they continue the pressure and community support, that Caesars will have no choice but to do the right thing."

Wayne Parry Associated Press
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