Momentum to shift some gambling away from Atlantic City increased Tuesday as a state senator introduced plans for a constitutional amendment putting slot machines at New Jersey's four horse racing tracks, a business group increased its planning for an anticipated full-blown casino at the Meadowlands sports complex just outside New York City and the state gave final approval for the Showboat to shut down this month.
New Jersey's Division of Gaming Enforcement issued its final closing order for the Showboat on Monday night; the casino will shut down at 4 p.m. on Aug. 31.
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The order granted a shutdown petition the Showboat filed on Aug. 1, and seemed to indicate its owner, Caesars Entertainment, has little intention of considering selling it, despite public statements to the contrary. Company spokesmen did not immediately respond to requests for comment Tuesday.
"After 4 p.m. on Aug. 31, 2014, Showboat will cease all gaming operations and Showboat will no longer be open to the public in any capacity," the company wrote in its petition.
The order granted Monday by the gaming enforcement division spells out how the shutdown is to take place, including taking inventory of all alcoholic beverages and slot machines before transferring any to the company's other three casinos in Atlantic City; and allowing customers holding Showboat chips after the shutdown to redeem them at the other casinos: Harrah's, Bally's and Caesars.
It's one of three Atlantic City casinos closing in the next few weeks. Revel will close its hotel Sept. 1 and its casino Sept. 2, and Trump Plaza is closing Sept. 16.
Gov. Chris Christie plans a forum on Atlantic City's future with local and state officials and workers next month.
The Showboat shutdown order came on the same day as Sen. Joe Pennacchio's proposal to let voters decide whether to amend the state constitution to put slots at the tracks, run by a group of Atlantic City casinos.
The state's 50 percent take of tax revenue would go toward state employee pensions. Forty percent would go to the casinos, and 10 percent to a fund for infrastructure and entertainment improvements in Atlantic City.
"Allowing slot machine wagering at New Jersey's race tracks could generate hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue to support the pensions system and the revitalization of Atlantic City," Pennacchio said. "There is an inevitability to racetrack "racinos" in New Jersey. Why not use the moment to strengthen and encourage Atlantic City and its casinos as well as increasing the solvency of our public workers' pensions?"
Tuesday morning, business leaders in the Meadowlands region updated their plans for the day they expect New Jersey to approve a casino at the Meadowlands sports complex. They envision two hotels, a convention center, and a monorail to shuttle people among attractions in the area, including the American Dream shopping and entertainment complex, formerly known as Xanadu.
The group estimated the price tag for everything at about $1.2 billion, and said it would likely be paid via private investment combined with tax incentives.
"A casino will allow the Meadowland's to draw on an already existing customer base that wants to gamble and be entertained, but is currently driving past us to get to casinos in nearby states," said Jim Kirkos, CEO of the Meadowlands Regional Chamber. "We have the potential to build the best casino in the world because we have the infrastructure to accommodate thousands of visitors at a time, and the space to entertain a diverse audience with a multitude of entertainment needs within the sports and entertainment complex."
Kirkos pointed out that more than 6 million people live within a 20-minute ride from the complex — including some of the wealthiest zip codes in the country.
The complex is also home to MetLife Stadium, where the NFL's Jets and Giants play their home games, and a newly renovated Meadowlands horse racing track.
Associated Press writer David Porter in Carlstadt contributed to this report.
Wayne Parry can be reached at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC