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Gaming Guru

Joe Weinert
 

Atlantic City Round-Up

14 January 2003

ATLANTIC CITY -- The chief operating officer of Donald Trump's casino company will soon stop overseeing daily operations of the flagship Trump Taj Mahal to concentrate on his corporate duties.

Since becoming chief operating officer 2.5 years ago, Mark Brown has also been the Taj's chief operating officer as well as non-operating president of the company's four other casinos.

"He's been very busy and the company's becoming bigger. We have a lot of things in the hopper and this allows Mark to do some of the positive things he's done thus far for the whole company," Trump said.

Cathy Walker, who has been general manager of the Trump Indiana riverboat casino for 2.5 years, will become Taj's chief operating officer. She's originally from the Atlantic City area, having worked for the New Jersey Casino Control Commission for 13 years before joining the gaming industry in 1996.

Two years ago New Jersey regulators expressed concern that Brown was spreading himself too thin with his many duties. He signed a four-year contract extension in November.

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At least two gaming executives are blaming a new statewide smoking ban on the sudden decline in Delaware slot-machine revenue last month.

The state's three racetracks experienced an 11.4 percent dip, to $40.2 million, for the five-week December reporting period. Revenue through the first 11 months was up 9 percent.

A law that prohibits smoking in all public places and workplaces took effect Nov. 27.

"No matter how much you want to pin it on the variables of weather and calendars and other stuff, I conclude that the smoking effect had a negative effect -- not just us but all the tracks statewide," said Bruce McKee, general manager of Midway Slots at Harrington Raceway.

"Some are not coming because they're offended (by the law), some are not coming as often, some are not staying long because they keep getting interrupted. It's a dreadful thing, I think. It's a significant burden for the operators," he said.

The three tracks finished the year with slot revenue of $565.9 million, up 7.5 percent.

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For its first big pre-opening event, Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa is heading to the Big Apple.

Next week the $1 billion casino, scheduled to open this summer, will unveil its restaurants, chefs and menus at "Borgata Style: The Event" at The Supper Club in New York.

"That's a major market to us and we want to make sure we get as close to them and as close to the writers who report on the market as we can," said Larry Mullin, executive vice president of marketing. "This is a chance for them to get easy access to the story."

Borgata will also show off its cocktail-waitress uniforms, created by fashion hotshot Zac Posen.

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Even before its 544-room hotel expansion is completed, Showboat will begin a $34 million project to change its moribund Boardwalk entrance into a New Orleans/Mardi Gras-themed entertainment and dining attraction.

Showboat, the second-most profitable casino in the Harrah's Entertainment chain, will create a lively cityscape facade with towering signage, a new bar and lounge that will open to the ocean breeze in favorable weather, an expanded bar and grill, and a casino expansion that extends Showboat's casino floor to the Boardwalk.

Showboat is eliminating its showroom as part of the project, saying it was too small for its type of entertainment it prefers.

The entryway features will open in stages from July through October.

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Atlantic City casinos are increasingly concerned about statehouse discussion to legalize slot machines at the Meadowlands sports complex in northern New Jersey. Such a facility would be located in the heart of Atlantic City's biggest feeder market.

"As the new year opens, we are gravely concerned about attempts by the Sports Authority to permit video lottery terminals in racetracks," said Dennis Gomes, president of the Casino Association of New Jersey.

"Proponents of this proposal argue that this proposal does not violate the New Jersey Constitution by attempting to draw a ludicrous distinction between video lottery terminals and slot machines," he said.

"We are hopeful that the governor will recognize that implementation of this proposal would not violate the New Jersey Constitution but would also betray the promises made to induce companies to invest billions of dollars in the revitalization and continued growth in Atlantic City," Gomes said.

A 1976 statewide referendum permitted casino gambling only in Atlantic City.

Linda Kassekert, the new chair of the Casino Control Commission, said she had no position on slots elsewhere in the state but said her agency should be the one to regulate them.

(Joe Weinert covers the gaming industry for The Press of Atlantic City. He can be reached at jweinert@pressofac.com.)