Mohegan Sun the latest to bet on 'dying' Atlantic City

Tuesday’s official announcement that Connecticut-based Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, via its consulting arm, Mohegan Gaming Advisors, will assume management of Resorts Casino-Hotel seems to be a case of not seeing the forest for the trees.

It’s certainly big news that the financially beleaguered gaming hall -- the oldest legal casino east of Nevada -- has exponentially increased its chances for long-term survival via the newly forged partnership with Mohegan Sun (which is pending state regulatory approval), as well as through the recently consummated deal that will turn a sizable portion of Resorts real estate over to Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville brand. But there is a much larger picture here.

For all the of the “experts’” braying about Atlantic City’s gambling industry suffering a terminal case of competitionitis, the fact is that AyCee has recently seen a large infusion of investments – upwards of $200 million, not including Revel’s $2.4 billion price tag.

If the town were indeed “dying,” why would such big-time outfits as Mohegan Sun, Margaritaville and Golden Nugget expend so many resources, financial and otherwise, on the seaside resort? We can assume the folks running these companies are not completely clueless and incompetent. Which leaves the possibility that the smart money sees a rosy future for Atlantic City as a big-time destination.

After all, who – besides insurance companies, that is – bets on death?

An impresario’s return?

One other thought about the Resorts-Mohegan marriage:

The vice president of Sports and Entertainment at Mohegan Sun’s flagship property in Uncasville, Conn. is Tom Cantone. During the 1980s and early ‘90s, Cantone ran the entertainment departments at the now-demolished Sands and Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City. In that capacity, he did more than any other individual to steer AyCee casino entertainment away from the old-school Dean Martin/Sammy Davis Jr./Jimmy Roselli/Alan King model and into a hipper, more contemporary direction.

While at the Sands, Cantone was the first in town to book the likes of Eddie Murphy, Gloria Estefan, Jerry Seinfeld, and Robin Williams. At other properties in and out of Atlantic City, he was responsible for the gaming hall debuts of such acts as Roseanne Barr, Norah Jones, Pink and The Dixie Chicks.

As AyCee increasingly puts its chips on non-gaming attractions, one can’t help but wonder if Cantone will be taking an active role in booking Resorts’ 1,400-seat Superstar Theater, as well as its smaller venues, the Screening Room and Starlight Room. The answer, should be yes, because the city’s future depends, in no small part, on a constant supply of one-of-a-kind events, entertainment and otherwise -- which is Cantone's stock-in-trade.

But, perhaps, it’s time for Cantone, one of the few remaining “showmen” in casino entertainment -- a realm that, sadly, is crawling with suits who don’t seem to grasp the notion that a casino is part of the entertainment realm, not the banking world -- to bring his 30-plus years of experience in casino entertainment and marketing back to Atlantic City to run an entire casino, and not just its show biz operations.

It’s no secret Cantone’s brash, self-promoting style rubbed some in Atlantic City the wrong way. But that’s those people’s problems, not his. That he would likely create even more ways for folks to “Do AC” is all that matters.