Transforming Atlantic City’s oldest casino from a Prohibition-themed gambling hall to a destination for Jimmy Buffett’s Parrotheads took millions of dollars and disrupted the property for several months.
Today, however, Resorts Casino Hotel President and CEO Mark Giannantonio says the $70 million investment — in a Margaritaville complex, food court, Boardwalk retail area and more — was worth it.
He believes the property has begun to turn the corner financially with its first quarter results, and is moving toward an earnings profit by year’s end.
Resorts will continue to build on its image as a haven for the relaxed, beach-bound tourist in keeping with Margaritaville’s surfer vibe, Giannantonio said. By Memorial Day, gone will be the 1920s flapper cocktail server costumes brought by Resorts’ late owner, Dennis Gomes. They’ll be replaced with new costumes more in keeping with a new theme that has yet to be revealed.
A new beach bar will be constructed in the sand in front of the LandShark Bar & Grill, and the city has approved designating the beach at North Carolina Avenue as a surfing beach. Surfer Dean Randazzo, of Jersey Devil Surf, located at Resorts, will offer surf lessons on the beach.
“We have a whole experience coming for this summer that will be fun and games and music, and just bring a whole new feel to what we already have,” Giannantonio said.
Giannantonio acknowledges that the casino’s 2013 results were less than desirable. Resorts’ casino win remained flat at $130.8 million; its gross operating losses widened from $8 million to $12.2 million. Giannantonio attributes those losses to the renovations that temporarily shut down parts of the casino floor and closed part of a hotel tower.
First quarter results, however, have seen improvement. In the first three months of the year, Resorts saw $29.3 million in gambling win, up 12 percent.
Giannantonio said the capital investments made in the property, coupled with its new management agreement with Connecticut-based Mohegan Sun, will turn Atlantic City’s original casino from a struggling property to a successful property.
In 2012, Resorts owner Morris Bailey reached an agreement with Mohegan Sun to become the operators and minority owner of the casino. That gave Resorts access to Mohegan Sun’s database, and the casino now combines its marketing and promotional programs with Mohegan Sun’s other properties in Connecticut and Pennsylvania.
Resorts has gained new customers from the relationship, Giannantonio said, though he declined to release data related to the relationship.
Missing from Resort’s current portfolio is a venture into online gambling. Seven of Atlantic City’s 11 casinos have begun Internet wagering operations. The four that have not are: Harrah’s Atlantic City and Showboat Atlantic, whose parent company, Caesars Entertainment, has entered the market through its other Atlantic City properties; Revel Casino Hotel, which has been openly looking for a buyer since last year; and Resorts.
Of those four, Resorts is the only property that holds an Internet gambling permit. But its plans were put on hold in December when the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement suspended the application of its would-be partner, online gambling giant PokerStars.
Citing concerns about the federal indictment of a PokerStars founder, regulators at least temporarily stymied Resorts’ entrance into online gambling and a $10 million poker room that PokerStars had committed to building at the land-based casino.
Today, Gianntonio says, Resorts still believes in PokerStars, and the casino is waiting for the licensing process to be complete. He would not comment as to whether Resorts could have looked for other partnership opportunities when regulators put PokerStars’ application on hold.
PokerStars support suggest that if the giant is allowed to enter the New Jersey market online revenues could grow significantly.
But others have questioned whether allowing the company, which paid a $731 million settlement in a money laundering, bank fraud and illegal gambling case, to operate in New Jersey would compromise the state’s regulatory standards.
“They are our partner, and we’re waiting for them to be licensed,” Gianntonio said.
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