ATLANTIC CITY - An Atlantic City casino is exchanging one venerable name for another.
The famous Trump moniker was plucked off Trump Marina Hotel Casino on Monday in preparation for the gaming hall's ownership change and rebranding as a Golden Nugget casino in a few days.
Work crews from the Las Vegas-based Casino Lighting & Sign spent the day removing the 18-foot-high, aqua-blue letters spelling out "Trump Marina." Now, Donald Trump's name will light up Atlantic City's neon-splashed skyline on only two casinos - Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort and Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino.
Landry's Inc., owner of the Golden Nugget casinos in Las Vegas and Laughlin, Nev., is buying Trump Marina for $38 million. The New Jersey Casino Control Commission is scheduled to approve the sale next Monday.
The glitzy Golden Nugget name is returning to Atlantic City after a nearly 25-year absence, although on a different casino. What is now the Atlantic City Hilton Casino Resort opened in 1980 as the Golden Nugget, then owned by Las Vegas gaming mogul Steve Wynn. The Golden Nugget name vanished when Wynn sold the casino to Bally Manufacturing Corp. for $440 million in 1987.
Landry's is planning a $150 million makeover to turn Trump Marina into the latest version of Golden Nugget. The Houston-based gaming, restaurant and entertainment conglomerate has been making renovations for months as it prepares to retheme the casino.
"We have been hard at work renovating the first phase of the property so that we can give our patrons something fresh and exciting that reflects the new spirit of the Golden Nugget," Tilman Fertitta, chairman and chief executive officer of Landry's, said in a statement.
Landry's is bringing its own restaurant brands to the Golden Nugget, including the upscale Chart House seafood chain. The Chart House will open in Atlantic City on May 26, marking the restaurant's 30th location.
"The addition of this concept is just one of the many exciting changes that patrons will experience over the next few months as we prepare for a complete transformation," Fertitta said.
Landry's stepped in after Trump Entertainment Resorts Inc., parent company of the Trump casinos, failed to reach a deal to sell Trump Marina to New York-based Coastal Marina LLC. Coastal originally offered $316 million for the casino in 2008, before the recession sent Atlantic City real estate prices plunging. Coastal wanted to turn Trump Marina into a Margaritaville-themed casino in partnership with singer-songwriter Jimmy Buffett.
Hilton Hotels Corp. originally built the casino in the 1980s, but was denied a gaming license for associating with an attorney who had alleged mob ties. Donald Trump bought the property from Hilton for $320 million in 1985. He owned it until fall 1996, when he sold it for $485 million to Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts Inc., the predecessor to Trump Entertainment Resorts. Once known as Trump Castle, the casino has been overshadowed by its powerhouse Marina District neighbors, Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa and Harrah's Resort.
Bob Silverman, who owns a boat docked at the adjacent Farley State Marina, watched as the Trump Marina sign was being removed. He recalled when the same sign was erected during Trump Marina's name change from Trump Castle in 1997.
"It's kind of weird. It's a time warp in reverse. We saw it all go up and now we're seeing it go down," said Silverman, 66, a retiree who lives in Cherry Hill with his 64-year-old wife, Bobbi.