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GOMES GAMING | News | AC Press - April 25, 2010

200-room casino hotels? / Dennis Gomes / Atlantic City's casinos will recover - let's not panic

Although I have heard both positive and negative opinions regarding the legislation that would decrease the number of hotel rooms required for a gaming license from 500 to 200, the proposal gives me great concern.

Admittedly, the latest combination of competitive and economic challenges to Atlantic City has caused the largest slide in gaming revenues since the inception of legalized gaming in New Jersey. However, even though times are difficult in Atlantic City, we can't let these latest challenges cause us to lose sight of our city's greatness and the fact that it is one of the top two gaming destination resort areas in the United States.

Even in 2009, the worst year of the recession, our 12 casinos produced close to $4 billion in gaming revenues compared to approximately $11.5 billion produced by all of Nevada's 248 casinos. After Nevada, the next closest competitors are Indiana and Mississippi with about $2.5 billion in gaming revenues. Our high rate of productivity is something that we should be proud of and optimistic about.
There are many reasons for the tremendous success of Atlantic City. Here are a few:

First and foremost, we have an experienced and dedicated group of loyal employees and executives who in my opinion are second to none in the gaming industry.

The ocean and the beautiful beaches that once made Atlantic City the top vacation spot east of the Mississippi are still as beautiful and relaxing as ever before and continue to attract tourists to the shore.
n The low gaming tax rate, compared with other competing jurisdictions, has enabled Atlantic City to create a critical mass of retail, dining, entertainment and gambling that most likely will never be duplicated outside of Las Vegas and Atlantic City.

We have a state government that understands the importance of Atlantic City and continues to provide a great legislative and tax environment that is necessary to enable our gaming industry to survive the competition and the temporary economic downturns and to eventually continue the expansion of the past decades.
n We have a mayor and city councilmen who love Atlantic City and continue to support its gaming industry in every way that is consistent with the best interests of all the residents of this great city.

It is with these facts in mind that I seriously question the wisdom of the proposed new law. It's a proposal that seems to support the misguided Wall Street idea that somehow Atlantic City is now far less than it was and requires desperate measures to encourage investment of any kind in a city that is floundering and doomed. Our city is not doomed. If it needs anything, it needs more hotel rooms to help it grow as a true destination resort. In the short term, the competition has severely reduced the number of trips to Atlantic City by the "convenience" gamblers, who will always play at the casinos closest to where they live. That's not a problem. There is enough interest in gaming to satisfy the demand in all regional jurisdictions. However, in order to attract its fair share of the destination visitors and ultimately enable them to get "sand in their shoes," Atlantic City needs to provide convenient and always available accommodations. We need more rooms, more dining, more entertainment venues and more things for our visitors to do.

From the perspective of an Absecon Island resident, I love Atlantic City, and as a casino CEO, I believe in its ultimate and unique ability to remain one of the top two gaming destination resort cities in the country.

Don't let the worriers get you down. Mark my words, the same Wall Street doomsayers who are now down on Atlantic City are nothing but mindless followers who will be the first to jump on the bandwagon singing our city's praises when Atlantic City's economic recovery begins. We don't need a new law to reduce the number of rooms that are required for a new casino. We need more rooms and more of everything else that visitors come to our wonderful city for. God bless this city, its residents and workers and, more than anything else, our loyal visitors.

Dennis Gomes, the owner of Margate-based Gomes Gaming Inc., has served as president of several Atlantic City and Las Vegas casinos and was chief of special investigations in the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement.


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