Mohegan gaming authority extends reach with deal to manage Resorts in Atlantic City

Resorts Casino Hotel – the first in Atlantic City – will be managed by Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority. The move represents a major push for the Connecticut-based firm to get into a long-established gambling market.
Resorts Casino Hotel – the first in Atlantic City – will be managed by Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority. The move represents a major push for the Connecticut-based firm to get into a long-established gambling market. (GEOFF MULVIHILL / Associated Press)
Posted: August 09, 2012

ATLANTIC CITY - Praising Resort Casino's rich history and the continuing importance of the Atlantic City gaming market, Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority representatives said it is the "perfect time" for the Native American tribe to establish a presence here.

The presence has been created by the death of Resorts co-owner Dennis Gomes. Morris Bailey, the other owner, needed a partner, and the Mohegan authority fills that role.

"With Morris Bailey's faith in us, we are honored to continue the work that Dennis has started," said Mitchell Etess, chief executive officer of Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, the entity that owns Mohegan Sun casinos in Connecticut and Pennsylvania. The Mohegans will be managing Resorts under a contract, assuming all administrative functions, marketing, accounting, and procurement.

"Atlantic City is a great opportunity for us to create a lot of cross-marketing," said Etess, who then mentioned that player card points at one casino can be used at other Mohegan Sun properties. He appeared alongside tribal council chairman Bruce "Two Dogs" Bozsum.

Gomes, the CEO of Resorts and a veteran Atlantic City operator, died unexpectedly in February. Gomes had purchased Resorts with Bailey, a New York real estate magnate, in December 2010, and revamped it with a 1920s theme.

Bailey said the 1920s theme will remain, along with the Resorts name. The property will be enhanced with the addition of a Margaritaville-themed complex inside the casino and on the Boardwalk behind it. The additions were announced July 24, with Gov. Christie and Jimmy Buffett in attendance.

So don't expect to see any "Mohegan Sun" signs anywhere on the property, said Bailey. The sovereignty issues that the Mohegans receive in Connecticut, where the casino is on the Mohegan Indian Reservation, are not extended at Resorts.

The tribe's role "will be more operational, of course," Bailey said. "They will be supervising our operations and using their organizational skills.

"Mohegan Sun [in Uncasville, Conn.] is a resort. They have a depth in the entertainment business and will help us get more conventions. The cross-marketing will hopefully generate new revenue for Resorts."

The tribe also owns Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs, a racetrack with a casino in Wilkes-Barre.

The Margaritaville changes are intended to boost one of Atlantic City's smallest gambling halls. Resorts, which opened May 26, 1978, ranked 10th among the dozen city casinos in total casino revenue for June. The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement will release July figures on Friday.

"It's extremely competitive," said Aaron Gomes, son of the late owner and an executive vice president. "We have to compete with the Harrah's of the world, and even Penn National, which are able to keep customers in their player-reward programs."

"I call it the triangle," Etess said. "Our customers can go to our casinos in Connecticut and Pennsylvania, and now Atlantic City."

Mary Ann Hatch, 66, who was here on Tuesday for a day-trip from Stevensville, Md., says it's "a good idea."

"Harrah's does the same thing, and we follow them all over," said Hatch, as she played a penny-slot machine at Resorts. "I've been to their casino in Connecticut and been wanting to visit the one in the Poconos. This gives me an incentive."

For the tribe, managing an Atlantic City casino will extend its reach in the northeast amid growing competition.

Mohegan Sun and its neighboring rival, Foxwoods, are two of the largest casinos in the country. But newer casinos, like the one at Aqueduct Race Track in Queens, N.Y., are applying pressure. Massachusetts plans three resort-style casinos and Rhode Island seeks to add table games to its two casinos.

"Look, I know what's going on," said Etess, when pressed on the growing pressures on the Connecticut gaming market. "We need to extend our brand and find new business opportunities.

"The Atlantic City market allows us to do that."


Contact Suzette Parmley at 215-854-2594 or sparmley@phillynews.com.

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