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Workers seek to keep endangered casinos open

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ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — Now that the shock over the prospect of losing three Atlantic City casinos in the coming months is starting to wear off, many workers and their union are mounting a growing effort to keep them open by attracting new bidders and offering flexibility in contract negotiations with any potential buyer.

In recent weeks, the owners of the Showboat and Trump Plaza have said they will close them by September, and Revel could do likewise if a buyer is not found at a bankruptcy court auction next month. That could put nearly 8,000 workers on the streets.

But many of them don't want to lose their jobs without a fight.

"The workers aren't lying down for this," said Bob McDevitt, president of Local 54 of the Unite-HERE union. "They haven't accepted that they are no longer needed as employees in the Atlantic City casino industry."

The union plans to contact potential buyers for the casinos, saying they can be profitably run if bought at a low enough price. It also staged a rally last week in support of the Showboat and has lined up a bipartisan collection of state elected officials behind an effort to keep the casinos open.

McDevitt said the union will be flexible and accommodating with anyone who buys a casino and keeps it open.

"We want the world to know that we're looking for partners, not saviors or messiahs," he said. "We will work with them."

Melanie Gillespie, a beverage server at the Showboat, says many workers want to try everything possible to save their jobs.

"I'm not going down without a fight," said Gillespie, who has worked 18 years at the casino. "We have a lot of political support. It's going in a positive direction. We need someone to come in a put a little love into this place."

After last week's rally, Caesars Entertainment, which owns Showboat and three other Atlantic City casinos, said it would consider selling it instead of closing it if the right offer materialized. Company spokesman Gary Thompson said Wednesday that effort is continuing.

"We have been talking to interested parties, but it's too early to say if a sale would occur," he said.

Trump Entertainment Resorts has hired a search firm to seek buyers for Trump Plaza, thus far without success. A deal to sell it to a California firm last year for $20 million fell through.

Yomary Blanco, a housekeeper at Trump Plaza for 18 years, said she and her co-workers hope someone will buy that casino, which otherwise would shut down on Sept. 16.

"We're not going to roll over and just give up," she said.

McDevitt said the workers will soon take their campaign to Trenton to press elected officials, including Gov. Chris Christie, for help.

"The governor can't be flitting all over the country trying to run for president while we have 8,000 families on the line in one 44-block town fighting for their lives," he said.

A Christie spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Wayne Parry can be reached at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC

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