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Optimistic spirit down on the Boardwalk

Maybe they should anoint Dennis Gomes mayor of Atlantic City.

Clearly, Gomes has way too much exuberance and optimism to handle just the ownership of the city’s oldest hotel-casino. The Boardwalk, he said, is poised for an epic turnaround.

Gomes, 65, acquired Resorts Casino Hotel last week through his privately held Gomes Gaming Inc.

Resorts ushered legalized gaming into Atlantic City more three decades ago. Colony Capital, Sun International and entertainer Merv Griffin owned the property over the years. Gomes believes he will soon control a 942-room hotel-casino that has a wealth of potential despite its age.

“The property is in good condition,” Gomes said. “Not many people know that.”

Atlantic City is in the grips of the recession and faces competition from neighboring states. Gaming revenues, which have fallen 23 straight months, declined 13.2 percent last year to $3.9 billion, which equaled 1997 numbers. Resorts’ 2009 gaming revenues of $191.7 million declined almost 18 percent from 2008 and were the second-lowest figure among the city’s 11 hotel-casinos.

Gomes isn’t deterred.

Atlantic City, he said, is still the No. 2 gaming market in the United States behind the Strip. It offers a concentration of gaming properties along the Boardwalk that are superior to individual casinos spread out in Pennsylvania, and it has the ocean.

He also credits New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who has put forth a slew of ideas to revive the market.

“Right now, there is a lot of doom and gloom from Wall Street,” Gomes said. “It comes in cycles. I really believe there is a tremendous amount of opportunity here.”

Gomes has had a colorful gaming career. He served as a state gaming control agent in both Nevada and New Jersey. He operated the Hilton, Frontier, Aladdin, Dunes and Golden Nugget in Las Vegas before heading to Atlantic City, where he ran the Trump Taj Mahal and the Tropicana.

His employment was the subject of a 1991 legal tussle between Steve Wynn and Donald Trump.

A story Gomes told author Nicholas Pileggi about his dealings with a Japanese high roller when he managed the financially troubled Dunes became a memorable scene in the 1995 Martin Scorsese film, “Casino.”

Now Gomes is back to save dying Atlantic City.

“This investment is a clear indication that there is a great deal of potential in this market,” New Jersey Casino Control Commission Chairwoman Linda Kassekert said. “We are hopeful that this will not only revitalize Resorts, but all of Atlantic City.”

Howard Stutz’s Inside Gaming column appears Sundays. He can be reached at hstutz@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3871. He blogs at lvrj.com/blogs/stutz.

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