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Showboat’s final weekend

After more than 27 years of actual wheeling and dealing, the Showboat Casino Hotel in Atlantic City will shut down on Sunday.

The property on the north end of the boardwalk is being remembered as one of Atlantic City’s most innovative casinos.

Showboat Casino Hotel in Atlantic City
Showboat Casino Hotel in Atlantic City (AP Photo/Wayne Parry)

Opened in 1987, Showboat was equipped with not only gaming and lodging, but a bowling center that lasted several years.

It wasn’t until the 1990s that Showboat truly “took off,” according to James Karmel, author of Gambling on the American Dream: Atlantic City and the Casino Era.

“They came up with this Mardi Gras theme, basically to make it like a 24-hour party,” Karmel said, noting the effort helped Showboat separate itself from Atlantic City’s several other casino-hotels.

Karmel said Showboat was one of the first Atlantic City casinos to provide appealing amenities that go beyond slots and table games.

The facility, facing the threat of competition from Indian casinos in Connecticut, also helped itself by expanding the number of hotel rooms to more than 1,300.

According to Karmel, middle-class gamblers were the target for Showboat, along with Harrah’s, which purchased the property in the late 90s. Karmel said Showboat did a tremendous job making mid-level players feel pampered and celebrated every day.

Roger Gros, an original Showboat dealer, said any momentum was clouded when the casino introduced the House of Blues restaurant and concert venue nearly 10 years ago.

“That brought in a whole different type of clientele,” Gros said. “The problem was that it kind of clashed with their existing clientele.”

As much as the addition increased Showboat’s business, Gros said, it caused a lot of friction between customer bases and may have led to the casino’s demise.

Showboat will become the first of three Atlantic City casinos to cease operations over the next few weeks. Revel follows closely behind, and Trump Plaza is scheduled to close Sept. 16.

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