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Atlantic City Seeks To Reinvent Itself As Some Casinos Close

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ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Hundreds of casino workers in Atlantic City staged a protest Wednesday over the closure of the Showboat Casino – the latest in a string of economic troubles to hit the historic resort town.

As CBS News’ Michelle Miller reported, officials in Atlantic City are looking for ways to turn things around.

Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian has only been in office for six months, but he already has been facing a challenge years in the making.

“Gaming is always going to be important to us,” Guardian said. “It’s no longer the center stage.”

Since January, three of the 12 casinos in Atlantic City have either closed or threatened to do so. The famed Atlantic Club was the first to fold, and last month, Las Vegas-based Caesars Entertainment announced that Showboat Atlantic City Hotel and Casino – one of its four Atlantic City casinos – will be going out of business.

Melanie Gillespie has been a cocktail server at Showboat for 18 years.

“I feel like it’s kind of like a dream right now, like it’s not really happening,” Gillespie said.

Even Revel, the area’s newest and most expensive casino, may be out of luck. When the $2.4 billion glass palace opened two years ago, many called it a game changer.

“This is really one of the most spectacular resorts I’ve ever seen,” New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said at the time.

Christie pumped $260 million worth of tax credits into the project, but Revel has since filed for bankruptcy twice and could shut its doors next month if it does not find a buyer.

Pinky Kravitz, 86, is a lifelong resident of Atlantic City and called the closings “devastating.” He said he is worried about the thousands who could soon be out of work.

“What I have found is when these people go — where do they go, what do they do?” Kravitz said.

The biggest hit to the bottom line in Atlantic City is out-of-state competition. In the past decade, dozens of casinos have popped up outside the New Jersey state boundaries.

Casino revenues have plunged from a high of $5.2 billion in 2006 to just $2.9 billion last year.

Mayor Guardian said market saturation should have been part of the casino industry’s calculation.

“It’s as simple as that, absolutely,” he said. “If I were a marketing guy in a casino, they should be firing me.”

The mayor’s solution is to look beyond the slots. At the Borgata Hotel Casino and Spa, a third of the revenue comes from other amenities such as restaurants and shows.

“The vast majority of our customers live much closer to another option. They choose us because we have a better product,” said Borgata president Tom Balance. “If you don’t provide that in Atlantic City, people will go to a closer competitor.”

The signs of a changing landscape are evident. The old Atlantic Club has been bought by a new developer, and there are reports that it will be turned into a new luxury hotel – with no casino.

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