ATLANTIC CITY — There was gold galore — a veritable mother lode of glitz and glitter
Gold scissors were used to snip the ceremonial grand-opening ribbon celebrating the completion Thursday of a $150 million transformation from the old Trump Marina Hotel Casino into the gleaming Golden Nugget Atlantic City.
Las Vegas-style showgirls were resplendent in flowing gold costumes. The largest gold nugget in the world — weighing a whopping 62 pounds and valued at more than $5 million — was escorted into the building under the protection of armed guards.
They even unveiled a “Gold to Go” machine that looks like an ATM, but spits out gold instead of cash. Customers immediately started making purchases from the machine, the first of its kind on the East Coast.
“Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to the brand new Golden Nugget Atlantic City,” Tom Pohlman, the casino’s executive vice president and general manager, told hundreds of customers who gathered in the redecorated grand atrium for the ceremony.
For 11 months, while the project was under construction, Golden Nugget teased its patrons with signs and banners that said, “Watch the Transformation!”
“Today, we change that tagline to ‘Transformation complete,’’’ Pohlman said.
Golden Nugget now has a completely remodeled casino floor, refurbished hotel rooms and an array of new upscale restaurants, retail shops and lounges. Another centerpiece is a $6.5 million spa.
The party scene has been livened up with an expanded outdoor pool that doubles as an entertainment and gambling area. A bar, cabanas and three blackjack tables will give the pool a casino-meets-nightclub atmosphere.
Golden Nugget’s new look was the vision of Tilman Fertitta, the Texas billionaire who bought Trump Marina last year for $38 million and changed what he called “a great big box” into a virtually brand new casino.
“It was like it was never finished,” Fertitta said of the building’s old appearance.
In addition to the extreme makeover inside, the outside of the building has been given a new gold-hued facade topped by a gigantic Golden Nugget sign.
Fertitta heads the Houston-based Landry’s Inc., a casino, restaurant and entertainment conglomerate. He also owns the Golden Nugget casino hotels in Las Vegas and Laughlin, Nev. He is in the process of turning a casino in Biloxi, Miss., into a new Golden Nugget property.
Golden Nugget Atlantic City’s renovation represents a major investment in a market mired in a five-year revenue slump. Despite Atlantic City’s financial challenges, Fertitta spoke of his affection for the market, promising that he would be around for a long time as Golden Nugget’s owner.
“I’m not a flipper. I’m a buyer. Twenty years from now, you’ll still see me walking around this casino,” he told the crowd.
State and local officials said Golden Nugget will be a catalyst for jobs and economic development. Tracye McDaniel, a New Jersey economic development official, characterized Golden Nugget as a key component of Gov. Chris Christie’s cqefforts to revitalize Atlantic City’s casino and tourism markets.
“Christie’s administration rejected the view that nothing could happen in Atlantic City,” McDaniel said.
City Councilman Marty Small said Golden Nugget ensures that local residents will remain employed in the casino industry. He said he stressed the need for Golden Nugget to hire local construction workers when the renovations were under way.
“It’s a great investment,” Small said. “It’s another indicator that people still believe in Atlantic City. It’s part of the turnaround.”
Golden Nugget’s customers said they were impressed with the new surroundings. Jack and Arlene Maas, of Upper Township, Cape May County, said they put up with the dust, noise and inconvenience during the casino’s reconstruction, but were happy they stayed.
“It’s better now. It’s bright and clean. More glitzy, like a Las Vegas casino,” Arlene Maas said as her husband nodded his head in agreement.
Marsha Richman, of Philadelphia, ventured into the casino for the first time in years, wanting to see the fancier new decor.
“It is much more ostentatious and glamorous,” she said. “Trump Marina was drab.”