ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — A tribal gambling company has taken over the operations of Resorts Casino Hotel, New Jersey's oldest gambling hall.
The Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority on Tuesday announced the management agreement with Resorts, which has been in flux. The move represents a major push for the Connecticut-based firm to get into a long-established gambling market.
"The timing is right," MTGA CEO Mitchell Etess said in a statement. "We have long looked at the Atlantic City market as an excellent opportunity ..."
Casino industry consultant James Karmel says Mohegan may be seeking to become one of the major players in Atlantic City, where casinos have struggled for years.
"You're probably looking at consolidation," he said. And Mohegan, which runs casinos in Connecticut and Pennsylvania, could become one of a handful of firms to run the city's gambling businesses, he said.
Resorts opened in 1978 as the first place to gamble legally in the U.S. outside of Nevada.
Atlantic City flourished as a gambling resort for nearly 30 years, with revenues growing every year.
But in 2006, casino gambling came to nearby Pennsylvania. Coupled with a brewing recession, that spelled trouble for Atlantic City, which has seen gambling revenue dropping for six years.
Resorts was sold in 2010 to Dennis Gomes and Morris Bailey for $31.5 million.
Gomes, seen as a visionary in the industry, rebranded the casino in a roaring '20's theme to capitalize on the HBO series "Boardwalk Empire" about Atlantic City in the Prohibition era.
But Gomes died in February and his son, Aaron, has been helping to run the casino.
Last month, Resorts announced a new venture, teaming with Jimmy Buffett to develop a Margaritaville-branded entertainment complex in part of the casino. The Mohegan Sun's Connecticut flagship casino already has a Buffett-themed restaurant.
Karmel said Resort's owners will probably need to raze their historic building eventually and start anew to be able to compete with modern casino buildings.
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