Trop
Danny Drake

ATLANTIC CITY — Think of the odds of two high rollers winning more than $5 million apiece — at the same casino, within weeks of each other.

Well, it has happened at Tropicana Casino and Resort. Two months after a blackjack player won $5.8 million, another gambler has burned the casino for $5.3 million.

Tony Rodio, Tropicana’s new chief executive officer, said the unidentified gambler won most of the money at the craps table during a six-hour hot streak Wednesday night. He also got lucky playing blackjack and mini-baccarat.

The craps player showed his appreciation by leaving a $150,000-plus tip, which was divided up among the Tropicana table games dealers who worked that night, Rodio said.

Rodio declined to name the craps player, saying it is Tropicana’s policy to protect the privacy of its customers. He did say, however, that it was not Don Johnson, the high-rolling blackjack player who revealed his identity in a May 22 story in The Press of Atlantic City.

Johnson, 49, of Bensalem, Pa., took Tropicana for $5.8 million in April. Before his exploits at Tropicana, Johnson beat Caesars Atlantic City out of more than $4.2 million in December and won a total of about $5 million playing blackjack at Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in December, March and April.

Johnson complained that Atlantic City’s casinos are refusing him a chance to play again, but Tropicana’s billionaire owner, Carl Icahn, said he plans to personally invite Johnson back to the blackjack tables.

“We have not cut him off,” Icahn said. “I congratulate him on his winnings. That’s what gambling is all about. We’d be happy to see him again.”

Rodio said the winning craps player also will be invited back for more high-stakes gambling. At one point Wednesday, the mystery player was betting more than $100,000 at a time on the craps table.

Tropicana has made high-stakes wagering the centerpiece of its casino strategy, with mixed results. The casino posted higher table games revenue in six of seven months while the rest of the Atlantic City market shrank. Johnson’s winning ways, however, brought Tropicana’s streak to a dramatic end in April.

“Mr. Icahn and his company understand that with this strategy, there is a little bit of volatility,” Rodio said. “Sometimes you’re the bug, and sometimes you’re the windshield.”

Rodio recalled that Icahn was unfazed when he told him about the craps player’s big win. Instead of scrapping the high-stakes strategy, Icahn told Rodio that he wanted to spread the word that Tropicana is still pursuing major players.

“This is Mr. Icahn’s strategy,” Rodio said. “He has made no bones about this strategy. He feels very confident. We are not afraid to offer aggressive limits.”

Last week, Rodio, 52, of Hammonton, replaced former Tropicana CEO Mark Giannantonio, who was fired in May. Rodio denied that Johnson’s huge win had anything to do with Giannantonio’s ouster.

Rodio has spent nearly 31 years in the casino industry. He recalled one Japanese gambler who won about $6 million while playing baccarat at Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino in the 1980s. But he said he had never before heard of two gamblers winning more than $5 million each at one casino so close in time.

Contact Donald Wittkowski:

609-272-7258