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Day 2 of Atlantic Club auction ends without winner

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WAYNE PARRY | December 18, 2013 09:27 PM EST | AP


ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — Nothing has been easy with efforts to sell The Atlantic Club Casino Hotel.

Numerous potential buyers kicked the tires, but passed. Finally, a bargain-basement deal to have the world's largest poker web site, PokerStars, buy it was reached — and quickly crumbled. Now that the casino formerly known as The Atlantic City Hilton is in bankruptcy court, things seem to have gotten even harder.

The second day of a bankruptcy auction for the casino ended Wednesday night without a buyer. The casino hopes to have a purchaser lined up by Monday, and talks were expected to continue over the next several days.

"All I can say is the process is continuing," said Michael Frawley, the casino's chief operating officer.

A schedule laid out by the bankruptcy court envisioned a buyer emerging by now and being submitted to the judge for approval Thursday. That hearing has now been rescheduled for Monday morning.

The process was further complicated Wednesday when 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. 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 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.

The casino's current owners, Los Angeles hedge fund Colony Capital LLC, paid more than a half-billion dollars for it in 2005. It is now expected to sell for less than the $15 million it would have fetched from PokerStars had the sale gone through.

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