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Union: Block NJ casino sale if contract rejected

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WAYNE PARRY | December 18, 2013 07:27 PM EST | AP


ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — The difficult process of finding a new buyer for a struggling Atlantic City casino got even harder Wednesday when a casino workers union added a new potential hurdle.

During the second day of bidding for the Atlantic Club Casino Hotel, Local 54 of the Unite-HERE union asked a judge to block any sale that does not include the new buyer assuming its employee contract or negotiating a new one.

No buyer had emerged for the casino as of Wednesday evening, and it could not be known in advance whether whichever party agrees to buy the casino plans to assume its union contract.

The union represents bartenders, cooks, room cleaners, beverage servers and other casino and hotel workers.

In a filing rushed into court to meet a last-minute deadline to preserve its right to object, the union said no potential buyer has met the legal requirement to negotiate with the union about plans to discontinue the contract, which runs through Sept. 2014. Specifically, the union said the casino did not comply with a provision of the federal bankruptcy code requiring certain things, including notification of and negotiations with the union before being allowed to terminate an existing labor contract.

The casino, formerly known as the Atlantic City Hilton, has struggled to compete with newer, larger casinos in Atlantic City, as well as those in neighboring states, in recent years. For the past two years, the casino has concentrated on low rollers and local residents either unable or unwilling to fork out at the pricier casinos. That effort has improved the casino's bottom line but not fast enough to stave off a Chapter 11 filing, which was made last month.

A deal to sell it to the PokerStars website fell through earlier this year.

The bidding process began on Tuesday with 11 hours of back-and-forth behind closed doors in the northern New Jersey offices of the casino's lawyer.

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