ATLANTIC CITY — Mayor Don Guardian was on hand at Resorts Casino Hotel on Wednesday for the ceremonial opening of a nearly $5 million conference center at the city’s first casino.
It was the latest ribbon-cutting at a property that’s undergone near-constant expansion and renovation since it was bought in 2010 by developer and Atlantic City native Morris Bailey.
The space, with 15,000 square feet spread over 12 rooms, is the first of two moves Atlantic City is making this summer into the East Coast corporate meetings market. City and casino officials hope corporate meetings —think company retreats, trade-association meetings — can replace some of the revenue lost in recent years as casinos proliferated in the mid-Atlantic and hordes of daytrippers stopped placing bets in town.
Mark Sachais, Resorts’ vice president of hotel operations, said Wednesday that Resorts has booked about 12,000 room nights and generated about $2 million in revenue due to its new facility.
“Since 2011, we probably turned away $20 million in revenue because we didn’t have adequate meeting space,” he said.
When Resorts executives look across town, to the $126 million, 100,000-square-foot Waterfront Conference Center Harrah’s is raising in the Marina District, which will have its own ribbon-cutting next month, “we really don’t view what they’re building as direct competition,” he said. “Actually, we welcome it, because we think it’s going to bring more business to Atlantic City.”
Both projects received funding through the Investment Alternative Tax, which taps casino revenue to finance large development projects.
Harrah’s was approved for $45 million in IAT funding; Resorts got about $4.7 million.
The immediate goal, Harrah’s head Rick Mazer said Wednesday, is to convince meeting planners that Atlantic City has the sheer square footage necessary to be considered a corporate meetings heavyweight contender. Atlantic City needs to get on meeting planners’ list for consideration, he said. “The more there is to offer, the better it is for everybody. A rising tide lifts all boats.”
Next year, Harrah’s is scheduled to host what’s been cast by city officials as the ultimate coming-out party for Atlantic City as a meetings destination. The annual gathering of Meeting Professionals International, a corporate-meetings trade group, is scheduled for June.