Friday, May 29, 2015

Archive: August, 2010

POSTED: Monday, August 23, 2010, 3:19 PM

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.

Chuck Darrow @ 3:19 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Thursday, August 5, 2010, 11:28 PM

Go figure Thursday night's belated appearance by Bill O'Reilly and Glenn Beck turned out to be a solid contender for the funniest casino show of 2010.

The Fox News megastars hit the Atlantic City Hilton some six weeks after severe weather grounded the duo's New York-to-A.C. helicopter, thus washing out the original date. But past meteorological conditions certainly did nothing to dampen the enthusiasm of the sold-out crowd who enthusiastically--but hardly rabidly--cheered on their cable TV darlings.

Laughs came easily throughout the pair's hour-long turn, with both gentlemen displaying impressive timing as they cranked out their seemingly non-stop string of one-liners.

Taking a stage containing a pair of matching stools and end tables and a blackboard, the duo immediately set the evening's tone when O'Reilly explained the original date was 86'ed not by Mother Nature, but by President Obama's stopping flights that evening. From there, the two went merrily on their way, evoking not the right-wing firebrands so hated by liiberals, but a pair of veteran comics with an easy chemistry and genuine mutual affection and respect.

Not that the two blew kisses at each other all night; they seemed to target each other with their verbal jabs as often as they hurled invective at such expected targets as Obama, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and '60s radical William Ayres (who Beck made out to be the most politicaly powerful individual since Julius Caesar). For instance, at one point, O'Reilly reported his notoriously pessimistic (paranoid?) partner "demanded to be paid in gold" for the gig. A little later on, Beck retaliated by lying down on the stage and pretending to sleep as O'Reillly launched what appeared was going to be a long-winded story about Beck.

Of course, the audiernce was far more entertained whenever the commentators turned their wrath on the president and his minions whom, Beck charged several times, was determined to bring down this country's political and economic systems--"fundamental transformation" was his favorite phrase--in favor of a Marxist blueprint.

Were these jokes harsh and disrespectful? Absolutely. Were they any worse than what people like Bill Maher and Jon Stewart deal out to George W. Bush, Sarah Palin, et al on TV and the concert stage? Absolutely not.

Beck was definitely the more vitriolic of the two; thanks to his pit bull approach to his philosophical enemies, O'Reilly came off as downright level-headed and tolerant (e.g. it was Beck who identified Pelosi as a "rat" in a bit about Obama's more bizarre press conference moments).

It wasn't all wisecracks however, as the two addressed such topics as Obama's approval-ratings slide and the 2012 presidential election (they agreed the Republicans need a strong leader to emerge and galvanize all party members, but neither was able to identify who that might be). Again, it was Beck who was more strident in his remarks.

Incidentally, the audience wasn't anything like what stereotype-happy liberals might have assumed. To be honest, the generally middle-aged (and virtually all-white) crowd looked liked it would have been just as at home at casino performance by Louie Anderson or Air Supply . To put it another way, the two 50-something women standing behind me in line certainly didn't look like they want to bring down the current government--make a quilt for it maybe, but not bring it to its knees.

Chuck Darrow @ 11:28 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
About this blog
Philly native Chuck Darrow has literally covered Atlantic City’s casino scene since Day One: He was there on assignment the night in November 1976 when voters approved legalized casinos.

Since then, Chuck has covered the town and its gaming industry for several area newspapers -- which is why, in some circles, he’s known as “Boardwalk Charlie.”

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Chuck Darrow