Former exec to buy Resorts Atlantic City casino

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. - August 23, 2010

Dennis Gomes, the president and CEO of Gomes Gaming, announced the deal Monday, but did not release details.

The deal was met by optimism from the chairwoman of the state's Casino Control Commission, which must approve it before it can become final.

"This investment is a clear indication that there is a great deal of potential in this market," said Linda Kassekert. "We are hopeful that this will not only revitalize Resorts, but all of Atlantic City."

Resorts opened May 26, 1978, ushering in the era of legalized gambling in the resort city.

For most of three decades, the industry expanded consistently. It has been hit with double-barreled problems in the last three years: a recession and expanded competition in nearby states.

Casino revenue has been in freefall and casino owners have felt the pain, with several of them going through bankruptcy.

Resorts, originally owned by Merv Griffin, has been in danger of closing since December when it was taken over by lenders after its most recent owners couldn't pay the mortgage.

Enter Gomes, who worked as a casino regulator in Nevada and then New Jersey - including a stint as the officer who investigated Resorts for its original license - before joining the industry.

Over the past 30 years, he says he's managed 14 casinos across the country, including properties owned by Steve Wynn, Donald Trump and Barron Hilton.

He's built a reputation as a quirky marketer who once installed a tic-tac-toe playing chicken in a casino.

In Atlantic City, he's been at the helm of the Tropicana Casino and Resort and the Trump Taj Mahal.

He said in a statement that part of the reason he wanted to buy Resorts was a state plan to take over marketing and other aspects of Atlantic City's casino district.

"I am also encouraged by the recognition of our Governor and legislators that Atlantic City is a tremendous asset to the State of New Jersey and its economy," he said. "They realize the need for the government to partner with the casino industry in order to nurture and revitalize Atlantic City during the national economic downturn we are facing."

James Karmel, a gaming consultant, said he believes that there's reason to think Gomes can revive Resorts. But he said he doesn't know whether his involvement would be enough to keep the 11 existing casinos in the city.

"A lot has to be done to get Atlantic City up to a viable level again," said Karmel, who is based in Maryland.

Gomes said in a telephone interview Monday that he believes the city can support its 11 casinos and more. "You've got this beautiful ocean and beaches here," he said. "You can't beat the combination."

Resorts employs some 2,100 workers, has 942 hotel rooms and a 1,250-seat theater, a nightclub, eight restaurants and two cocktail lounges.

Gomes said Monday that the casino is in good shape physically.

There are also more than 10 acres of land available for expansion.

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