Portrait of a casino: Back in the black after 40 years

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — When Resorts became the first casino in the United States to open outside Nevada, gamblers overwhelmed it. Cars streamed into Atlantic City on May 26, 1978, and throngs waited in line for blocks on the famous Boardwalk.

People bought tickets for buffets they had no intention of eating, just to sneak inside the casino earlier than the rest. Men relieved themselves into plastic coin cups to avoid losing their spot at the tables. And cash — more than anyone had ever seen and more than management could imagine — flooded into the counting room, taking an entire day to count.

Forty years later , Resorts is a microcosm of the forces that boosted and buffeted the seaside gambling resort: the rapid rise to fabulous riches, the slowdown and struggle as more competitors emerged, and the recovery in a slimmed-down market.

“We were the first one here, and we’re going to keep doing what we do best,” said Resorts president Mark Giannantonio.

The casino plans to re-create the ceremonial first toss of the dice that came after then-Gov. Brendan Byrne confessed that his father taught him never to bet on anything other than Notre Dame and the New York Yankees.

But as Atlantic City grew, Resorts’ market share shrank. As one of the smaller casinos in town, with 942 hotel rooms, it suddenly found itself staring down newcomers with rooms of 2,000 or more.

And when casinos started proliferating in nearby Pennsylvania and New York, Resorts came within hours of handing the keys over to lenders and walking away in Dec. 2009.

Veteran casino executive Dennis Gomes, known for wacky promotions including customers competing against a chicken at tic-tac-toe, bought the casino but died soon afterward. His investment partner, Morris Bailey, kept Resorts afloat by writing checks each month, even as the casino lost money.

A turning point came when Resorts inked a deal to have the Mohegan tribe assume day-to-day management and to affiliate it with other tribal-owned casinos in Connecticut and Pennsylvania. A deal with Jimmy Buffett brought the Margaritaville brand to Resorts, and by 2014, it was back in the black, helped by $110 million of capital investments.

It has succeeded as one of seven casinos in a market that just four years ago had 12. But two of the shuttered casinos are reopening this year.

Some see the opening of the Hard Rock casino next door, in what used to be the Trump Taj Mahal, as a potential boon to Resorts.

“If the place next to Resorts is a home run, there will be overflow,” said analyst Lawrence Klatzkin with Rice, Voelker LLC in New York. “Hard Rock could be the best thing that happens to Resorts. There could be good symbiosis there.”

Resorts has found its niche, much as downtown Las Vegas casinos have by not trying to match their larger competitors on the Strip, said David Schwartz, director of the Center for Gaming Research at the University of Nevada Las Vegas.

“Downtown casinos aren’t competing by trying to build their own Bellagio lake; they are competing by offering better value and better gaming conditions,” he said. “If Resorts can do that, it has a good future ahead of it.”

Giannantonio predicts Resorts will have its best summer in a decade or more this year.

“I think we will be around 40 years from now,” he said. “Matter of fact, I’d bet on it.”

Just Posted

Red Deer’s indoor trampoline park announces closure

Citing mounting costs, Red Deer’s indoor trampoline park recently announced it was… Continue reading

WATCH: First Red Deer Market of the year

Hundreds came out to the first farmers market of 2018 Saturday

Bighorn Backcountry ATV users in wait-and-see mode on future of West Country access

As off-highway vehicle users started a summer of trail riding on the… Continue reading

Prince Harry, Meghan Markle wed in Windsor as millions watch

WINDSOR, England — Prince Harry and Meghan Markle gazed into each other’s… Continue reading

Canadians rise for early-morning royal wedding celebrations

It was a thrilling first glimpse of Meghan Markle on her wedding… Continue reading

Red Deer Silhouettes prepare for year-end show

Synchronized swimming team will perform its last show this season May 30

Maduro favoured as Venezuelans vote amid crisis

CARACAS, Venezuela — Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is expected to win a… Continue reading

Family, friends recall shooting victims’ optimism, humour

SANTA FE, Texas — Hardworking. Funny. Loving. Grieving family and friends recalled… Continue reading

Record Everest climber returns, already planning next trip

KATHMANDU, Nepal — A veteran Sherpa guide who scaled Mount Everest for… Continue reading

WATCH: First Red Deer Market of the year

Hundreds came out to the first farmers market of 2018 Saturday

Canadian families among throngs of royal fans camping out for glimpse of newlyweds

WINDSOR, United Kingdom — Intense security measures, massive crowds, jet lag and… Continue reading

Swiss stun Canada, Sweden crushes US in ice hockey semis

COPENHAGEN — Switzerland stunned title favourite Canada 3-2 to reach only its… Continue reading

Cuba: 110 died in plane crash, 3 survivors ‘critical’

HAVANA — The only three survivors of Cuba’s worst aviation disaster in… Continue reading

PHOTOS: Lacrosse action heats up in Red Deer

More than 50 teams from across Alberta took part in the Tradition… Continue reading

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month