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GOMES GAMING | News | Press of Atlantic City - August 23, 2010

Resorts casino is just the latest challenge for
"visionary" Dennis Gomes

By DONALD WITTKOWSKI Staff Writer | Posted: Monday, August 23, 2010

Dennis Gomes, 65, who lives in Margate, is seen
with his son Aaron, 29.

Photo by: Handout Gomes Gaming

ATLANTIC CITY — They call him an innovator, a visionary and a marketing genius.

Now, Dennis Gomes is ready to add a new title: casino owner.

As the soon-to-be-owner of Resorts Atlantic City, he is facing his biggest challenge ever — revitalizing an aging, undersized casino in a fractured economy.

“If anyone can do it, Dennis Gomes can,” said Michael Pollock, managing director of Spectrum Gaming Group, a casino consulting firm based in Linwood.

“He’s got a good track record as being a visionary and for carrying out plans, someone who can motivate the troops, someone who can target niches,” Pollock added. “If you put all of those skills together, in this instance, there’s no one better to do what needs to be done at that property.”

Gomes, 65, of Margate, has established himself as a larger-than-life character in his 30-plus years in the Las Vegas and Atlantic City gaming markets. Early in his career, as a gaming investigator in Nevada, he exposed a money-skimming scam at the Stardust casino in Las Vegas that inspired the 1995 movie “Casino” starring Robert DeNiro.

His career in Atlantic City included turns as a senior executive at Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort and Tropicana Casino and Resort. Gomes said he managed to revive both of those casinos before he left, although some say he was forced out.

Why would he buy a money-losing casino that Wall Street analysts insist will have a hard time surviving?

“That same question was asked when I started at the Taj,” Gomes said in an interview Monday, after his purchase of Resorts was announced. “When I started at the Taj (in 1991), the company was in bankruptcy and the Wall Street guys told me, ‘Don’t take it. It’s a white elephant.’’’

By the time he left the Taj 3½ years later in a much-publicized blowup with Donald Trump, the casino’s gross operating profit had increased from $84 million to $148 million, Gomes said.

Gomes told a similar story about Tropicana’s turnaround under his leadership. He claimed credit for boosting Tropicana’s gross operating profit from about $68 million to close to $130 million.

“When I went to Tropicana, people called me and asked me, ‘Aren’t you embarrassed to be there?’’’ he recalled. “But it was basically the same philosophy and approach. It was all about caring about the people.”

Gomes explained that he will call on his people skills again to try to engineer a recovery at Resorts.

“My key strategy is caring about the people,” he said. “The leader cares about his people, and the people know it.”

Pollock said Gomes has always had a deep love for the casino industry and his enthusiasm rubs off on his employees.

“Everyone who meets Dennis likes him,” Pollock said. “He has a way of demonstrating his enthusiasm. He clearly likes people and people sense that intuitively. He loves what he does. That’s such an essential attribute in this business, because the people who work for him need to love what they do, too.”
Gomes has also developed a reputation as a marketing expert, someone who has staged some of the wackiest publicity stunts in Atlantic City history to generate business for his casinos.

“He’s got a good marketing mind, and I think he’s innovative. That’s what his strengths are,” said Mark Juliano, chief executive officer of the three casinos owned by Trump Entertainment Resorts Inc.

Gomes, a blackbelt in martial arts, once celebrated the groundbreaking for a Tropicana project by executing a pair of wall-shattering karate kicks. His oddball promotional events included pitting gamblers against tic-tac-toe playing chickens for a $10,000 prize. Tropicana received nationwide media coverage of the “Chicken Challenge,” generating millions of dollars in free publicity in the process.

His other attractions at Tropicana included a whirling money machine called the “Fortune Dome” and the “Amazing Cash Contraption,” a ridiculously complex Rube Goldberg-like gadget that would spit out cash jackpots.

Gomes’ grand achievement at Tropicana was the development of The Quarter, a Latin-themed retail, dining and entertainment complex that brought some Las Vegas-style pizazz to Atlantic City in 2004.

In the past, Gomes denied that his departure from Tropicana in 2005 had anything to do with the catastrophic collapse on Oct. 30, 2003, of a parking garage that was part of The Quarter. The accident, which killed four workers, was blamed on faulty design and construction. Gomes left Tropicana after a management shake-up at the company’s former parent company.

Since 2005, he has looked for opportunities to get back into the Atlantic City market as a casino owner. In the past three years, he was unsuccessful in attempts to buy the Trump casinos and the Tropicana. Now, he is on the verge of taking over as the new owner of Resorts.

“He is a highly respected casino operator,” said gaming analyst Jane Pedreira, of FBR Capital Markets & Co. “If anybody could do it, it would be Dennis Gomes.”


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