ATLANTIC CITY — Well before Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa was the highest revenue-generating property in the city, it was only a concept in the dining room of Tom Ballance’s Egg Harbor Township home.
But now, after a 19-year association with the property, Ballance is set to move on to a corporate role with MGM Resorts. Ballance was the first person hired for the project by Boyd Gaming in October 1998.
“Basically I had a job and no place to work, I had a laptop with dial-up internet,” said Ballance, 58. “We didn’t even have any plans at that time; I interviewed a couple of people in my dining room for various positions.”
The project Ballance was first in charge of is far different than the one that currently sits at 1 Borgata Way.
“At that time it was supposed to be a property with 1,200 rooms that cost $750 million,” he said. “It was a totally different project (than it is now) when we first started talking about it, it was a much more conservative project.”
But as time went on, the size and scope of the project grew as the company continued to research the market, Ballance said. In the years leading up to the completion of the project, the company surveyed the market by asking people why they came to Atlantic City and why they didn’t.
“As we did our research, we started to believe that hotel rooms would be very successful, so the scope of the project changed from a 1,200-room hotel to a 2,000-room hotel,” Balance said.
The property has served as a game-changer for the city, said David G. Schwartz, director of the Center for Gaming Research at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas. At the time, Borgata was one of the first properties to make non-gaming attractions a priority. Last year, Borgata accounted for more than $1 billion of the city’s $3.5 billion in gaming revenue, according to state Department of Gaming Enforcement numbers.
“It was the first Las Vegas strip-style property,” Schwartz said. “Before that, Boyd had experience building properties, but not resort-like ones, like Borgata.”
The success of the property, including the countless expansion projects, has surprised Ballance.
“I didn’t think that it would be this big sitting at my dining room table, I thought we would be another good competitive hotel casino in Atlantic City,” Ballance said. “What the property became is a function of its success.”
In May, Borgata announced Ballance would leave to take a position for MGM Resorts. MGM has appointed Marcus Glover to replace Ballance.
“His plan is to continue to work from that base that has been developed here,” Ballance said. “But also work for ways to improve.”
Ballance was a senior vice president when he was picked to lead Borgata in December 2012. He worked for Borgata for five years before it opened in 2003 as the casino’s vice president of development. Before that, he worked for 17 years at Harrah’s Resort.
“After 19 years of successful property leadership, we are thrilled Tom will apply his deep knowledge across the MGM Resorts portfolio as executive vice president of operations,” said Corey Sanders, chief operating officer of MGM Resorts International. “This move is a testament to Tom’s individual contributions as well those who have worked alongside Tom to make Borgata a world-class destination. Tom will spend the summer transitioning to his new role and working to identify a successor.”