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N.J. judge approves shutdown of Atlantic City casino

Analysts link the liquidation of the Atlantic Club Casino Hotel to the proliferation of gambling destinations.

Wayne Parry/Associated Press

Analysts link the liquidation of the Atlantic Club Casino Hotel to the proliferation of gambling destinations.

CAMDEN, N.J. — A slowdown brought on by the rapid proliferation of casino gambling in the Northeast claimed its first victim in New Jersey on Monday when a federal bankruptcy judge approved the sale and shutdown of the Atlantic Club Casino Hotel in Atlantic City.

The casino, which opened in 1980 as the Golden Nugget and featured then-owner Steve Wynn bringing fresh towels to Frank Sinatra in its commercials, will shut its doors Jan. 13.

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Judge Gloria Burns approved a deal that was reached Friday. Two rival casino companies with a presence in Atlantic City, Tropicana Entertainment and Caesars Entertainment, will buy the casino for $23.4 million, essentially strip it for parts and shut it down. The Tropicana will take the slot machines and table games, while Caesars will get the hotel.

Neither has any interest in operating the business in Atlantic City’s now diminished market. Atlantic City will have 11 casinos after the shutdown.

Competition is a fact of life now for Atlantic City’s casinos, said David Rebuck, director of the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement.

The Atlantic Club thus became the first Atlantic City casino to close due to the downward spiral touched off seven years ago by the arrival of casinos in neighboring Pennsylvania, which for the first time will now have more casinos (12) than Atlantic City.

‘‘Competition is nothing new for New Jersey and it will be no different in 2014,’’ Rebuck said.

In Massachusetts, lawmakers have allowed the siting of three casinos and one slots parlor. Wynn, seeking to build a casino in Everett, is competing for the state’s Greater Boston gambling license.

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