Dennis Gomes, 68, A.C. casino co-owner

Dennis Gomes
Dennis Gomes
Posted: February 26, 2012

Dennis Gomes, 68, co-owner of Resorts Casino Hotel in Atlantic City and a former mob-busting Las Vegas prosecutor whose exploits inspired the movie Casino, died Friday, his son said.

The Margate, N.J., resident died at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital of complications from kidney dialysis, said Aaron Gomes, vice president of operations at the casino. Dennis Gomes had developed kidney problems and was undergoing dialysis after breaking his back last year.

"Whether or not it was related to his back we will never know, but he ended up having major kidney issues and was put on temporary dialysis," Aaron Gomes said.

Mr. Gomes and New York real estate magnate Morris Bailey bought the struggling Resorts in August 2010, saving it from shutting down.

Mr. Gomes had a long career in the casino industry, with management jobs at the Tropicana Casino & Resort, where he famously turned a tic-tac-toe-playing chicken into a top draw, at the Trump Taj Mahal Casino & Resort, the Golden Nugget in Las Vegas, and at Hilton Nevada's properties. His tenure as Nevada's top casino corruption investigator was chronicled in the 1995 Martin Scorsese film starring Robert De Niro.

Donald Trump called Mr. Gomes "a great friend and a great executive."

"He was my top executive at the Taj Mahal and he did a tremendous job," Trump said. "Everybody liked him and respected him."

Mr. Gomes was beloved by executives and casino industry leaders in Atlantic City. His business partner pledged to carry out his policies at Resorts.

Daniel Heneghan, a spokesman for the New Jersey Casino Control Commission who knew Mr. Gomes for decades, said Mr. Gomes had always wanted a casino in Atlantic City.

"Dennis may have gotten his start in the industry in Nevada, but his heart clearly was in Atlantic City," Heneghan said.

Employees at Resorts were stunned by the death.

"Dennis was truly the most giving, gracious, and kindhearted human being," said Nicholas Moles, vice president and general counsel of the casino. "Everyone who knew him loved him."

Another of Mr. Gomes' sons, Douglas, died Jan. 28.

Mr. Gomes was famous for schemes to attract publicity to his casinos. While running Atlantic City's Tropicana, he pitted the chicken against customers in tic-tac-toe. To promote an Indiana casino, he hired a Barack Obama look- and soundalike who urged gamblers to bring their "change" to the gambling hall. That earned him a rebuke from the White House and oodles of publicity.

It was no different at Resorts. Mr. Gomes erected a billboard showing a dancer's naked rear end to promote a stage show, leading to a court battle with NJ Transit, which owned the billboard location. He staged an adults-only big-top show called "The Naked Circus" and opened the first gay nightclub in a Jersey Shore casino.

After Boardwalk Empire, the HBO series based on Prohibition-era Atlantic City's political and vice rackets, became popular, Mr. Gomes decided to rebrand Resorts - whose hotel is an authentic 1920s edifice - to cash in on the city's past.

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