As casinos continue to close in Atlantic City, it feels like the end of an era. I went to see what the end looks like.
By Jesse Smith
You wouldn’t have known from the long line of people waiting to check in that the Showboat Atlantic City Hotel and Casino would be closing in just one week. My partner Rob and I arrived at the Mardi Gras-themed casino a few minutes after 4:00, when check-in began, and already guests had formed a long line along the gaming floor. Many were traveling both light and heavy: They had backpacks and pillows from home and bags with bottles of liquor, even though a sign in the self-park garage said guests were not allowed to bring their own alcohol into the hotel.
This was only my third time in the Showboat. I have been coming to Atlantic City’s casinos since I was old enough to gamble, but I always thought the Mardi Gras theme felt a bit desperate. The jazzy music and paintings of parades and parties always seemed to be working overtime to convince guests that the Showboat was a fun place. My late grandmother loved the place and racked up free meals and show tickets and hotel rooms here over the years. In Atlantic City, I preferred to lose myself in places and periods I’d never been: the Taj Mahal, the 19th-century U.S. Wild West, or ancient Rome.
But Rob and I were at Showboat to mark what increasingly feels like the end of an era. Earlier this summer, Showboat’s owner announced that it was closing the casino unless a buyer could be found. The casino remains profitable: it earned $7.6 million in the second quarter of 2014. But Caesars Entertainment — which owns three other Atlantic City casinos, as well as gaming halls in thirteen other states and Canada — is downsizing in the city as competition from casinos in Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut cuts into Atlantic City’s gambling revenue.
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