If, as they say, past is prologue, today's announcement of the sale of Resorts Atlantic City to Gomes Gaming Inc. is about the best news Atlantic City's beleaguered gambling industry has received in years.
That's not just because the sale-which is subject to state approval-will bestow upon AyCee's first legal casino a future that hasn't necessarily been guaranteed lately, but because it will bring Dennis Gomes back into the game at a time when his intelligence, vision and willingness to take chances on ostensibly "crazy" events and promotions is needed more, perhaps, than it ever was before in Atlantic City.
Gomes' local track record is impressive. Recruited from Steve Wynn's Mirage Las Vegas team by Donald Trump in the early-'90s to rescue the Taj Mahal from serious economic problems (Wynn famously sued The Donald for hiring him away), Gomes took the foundering Taj and made it the casino for the decade leading up to Borgata's game-changing, 2003 debut.
His legacy from his time running Tropicana Casino and Resort begins with The Quarter, the casino's popular, Las Vegas-style retail, dining and entertainment complex, which was his baby from conception to birth. Gomes was also responsible for bringing the Tic-Tac-Toe-playing chicken to the Trop, which proved to be a marketing jackpot for the property, both in terms of publicity and the signing of new players card club members. In addition, he brought to the Tropicana such exhibitions as those devoted to the Titanic, President John F. Kennedy and, most provocatively, torture through the ages-a most unexpected theme for a casino to promote.
Despite skepticism in some quarters, all of these ideas-wacky though they might have seemed at the time-proved to be successful. And that's why the news of Gomes' purchase of Resorts' sale may be a pivotal event in the city's history.
Gomes has yet to publicly lay out any kind of plan for Resorts. But it would be surprising if he didn't have some pretty spectacular ideas up his sleeve (certainly a return of the Tic-Tac-Toe chicken wouldn't be out of the question, to boot). Nonetheless, this is the most important part of today's news:
Rather than having a casino owned and operated by a consortium of banks and hedge funds (which, by definition, have no clue about how to package and sell "fun"), or billionaire investors who are merely looking to buy low and sell high, Resorts will have an owner who truly wants to improve it and make it a must-see destination-as well as one who has repeatedly made known his belief that the city's best days lie ahead, no matter how many slot machines and blackjack tables Pennsylvania ultimately claims.
What Gomes does going forward will always be driven by his own bottom line. But it's a safe bet he'll also keep one eye out for Atlantic City as a whole-something history suggests has not always been a priority for casino operators.
Obviously, no single person can compensate for, or eradicate, all the bad mojo AyCee has accumulated the past few years. But the moment the state approves Gomes Gaming's purchase of Resorts, is the moment things should start to improve for Atlantic City.