ATLANTIC CITY — Resorts Casino Hotel did not appear any different Friday, following Dennis Gomes’ death, than it does any other day of the week: Cocktail waitresses in Roaring ’20s-themed costumes roamed the casino floor. Guests — mostly unaware of the news — checked into the hotel, and wait staff set up restaurants for lunch and dinner.
But employees who were asked about the death of the 68-year-old co-owner and chief executive officer of the city’s oldest gaming hall said Gomes’ death was in the forefront of their minds even as they continued with their jobs Friday.
Gomes died of complications from dialysis treatment Friday at Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia. Employees were notified of Gomes’ death by management when they arrived for their shifts.
Some employees gathered in a small circle at one of the casino’s entrances appeared visibly upset Friday afternoon. Asked about their thoughts on Gomes’ death, they said only that their thoughts were with his family.
Cocktail server Kelly Thavisack, who heard the news when she arrived at work, called his death shocking and said employees were upset as the news spread.
“We were sad to lose him. He was a great leader,” she said.
Thavisack, 27, of Egg Harbor Township, has worked at Resorts for a little more than a year, landing a job there after stints at Showboat Casino Hotel and Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa. Even with $2.4 billion megaresort Revel set to open this spring, Thavisack said she wouldn’t entertain any thoughts of leaving Resorts, primarily because of the strong direction Gomes had taken with the casino.
Being in a smaller, “more intimate” casino with a dedicated vision is appealing, Thavisack said, adding that she’s confident Gomes’ vision will continue through senior leadership.
Gomes and business partner Morris Bailey took over the struggling casino in December 2010, and rebranded it with a Roaring ’20s theme to capitalize on the success of the hit HBO series “Boardwalk Empire.”
Part of that rebranding included the introduction of cocktail servers dressing in Prohibition-style costumes, reminiscent of 1920s flappers. With the costumes came controversy from former servers who filed discrimination lawsuits against the casino, alleging they were forced out to make room for younger and sexier women.
Resorts was just days from closing before Gomes and Bailey bought the property. Gomes maintained that nearly 2,000 employees would now be out of work if he had not stepped in.
One of those employees, 58-year-old Charles Bennett, of Somers Point, said he was saddened to learn of the death of the man whose purchase of the casino kept him from losing his job. Bennett, an environmental services worker, has been a Resorts employee for 29 years.
“He could have let it close, but he didn't. We had jobs,” Bennett said. “He was a good man. Never seen him without a smile on his face. It’s really a shame. He just lost a son, too.”
Gomes’ son, Douglas, died Jan. 28.
Contact Jennifer Bogdan