ATLANTIC CITY - Tropicana Casino and Resort's big-stakes table games strategy backfired in April, with one high roller taking the property for a record haul of $5.8 million.

As a result, Tropicana was the worst performer among Atlantic City's 11 casino hotels in April - a month that saw revenue tumble 7 percent for the entire industry. It was the 32nd straight month of lower revenue for the nation's second-largest casino market.

Altogether, the casinos posted $289.4 million in revenue from the slot machines and table games, compared to $311.5 million a year ago, the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement reported Tuesday. Slot winnings fell 3 percent to nearly $208.6 million, while table games revenue plunged 15 percent to $80.9 million.

Lately, Tropicana has been using high-stakes table games as the centerpiece of its casino operations. Tropicana had posted higher table-games revenue in six of the past seven months, but its lucky streak ended in dramatic fashion in April.

"We ran very unlucky," lamented Mark Giannantonio, Tropicana's outgoing chief executive officer.

Giannantonio disclosed that one blackjack player won $5.8 million, but he declined to release the gambler's name.

"We had the single-largest winner in our history," Giannantonio said. "If it hadn't been for bad luck at the tables, we would have had a good month."

Giannantonio denied that the risky table-games strategy had cost him his job. Last week, parent company Tropicana Entertainment Inc. announced that Giannantonio had been fired. His replacement, veteran gaming executive Tony Rodio, will formally take charge at Tropicana on June 1.

"I don't think it had anything to do with the decision," Giannantonio said.

Tropicana's table-games revenue plummeted 54 percent in April to $3.2 million. In April 2010, the casino took in $7 million at the gaming tables, meaning that the lucky blackjack player single-handedly ruined Tropicana's results this year.

A poor showing at the gaming tables dragged down Tropicana's total revenue in April by 20 percent, the biggest decline in the industry.

Tropicana wasn't the only casino that got burned at the gaming tables. Both Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa and Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino suffered a 33 percent decline in table games revenue. Harrah's Resort and the Atlantic City Hilton were each down more than 20 percent at the table games.

Resorts Casino Hotel also was a bit unlucky at the table games. Dennis Gomes, CEO of Resorts, said two high rollers won about $1 million in a single day.

"Two guys were the bulk of it. Otherwise, our numbers would have been up $1 million," Gomes said of the table games revenue.

Resorts, though, had a 7 percent increase in slot winnings to boost its total revenue by 4 percent for the month. Caesars Atlantic City was the only other casino to post higher revenue in April, up nearly 6 percent

Resorts has recorded higher revenue for three months in a row, a sign that Atlantic City's oldest casino is starting to rebound under the new ownership of Gomes and New York real estate magnate Morris Bailey.

"It's all positive. The place is full and our performance for the first quarter will show a bigger improvement than most of the other places," Gomes said.

However, Gomes added that he will not be completely satisfied until Resorts becomes profitable. Despite three straight months of increases in gross gaming revenue, the casino has not yet clawed its way back into the black.

"I don't want to call it a turnaround until we're making a profit, and we're not doing that yet," Gomes said.

Gomes and Bailey bought Resorts in December for $31.5 million, a price reflecting the troubled state of Atlantic City's casino market. The city continues to struggle against the sluggish economy and competition from the Pennsylvania casinos.

August 2008 was the last month that Atlantic City had higher casino revenue. Gov. Chris Christie has overhauled New Jersey's gaming regulations and created a new state-run Tourism District in hopes of revitalizing the casino industry and Atlantic City's economy. Those efforts won praise from Caesars Entertainment Corp., owner of the Bally's, Caesars, Harrah's and Showboat casinos in Atlantic City.

"We are encouraged by the New Jersey state government's determination to market the city more effectively and by signs the Atlantic City market may finally be starting to stabilize," Caesars Entertainment CEO Gary Loveman said in a statement Tuesday.

Contact Donald Wittkowski:

609-272-7258

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