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Gaming Guru

Joe Weinert
 

Atlantic City Round-Up

12 May 2003

ATLANTIC CITY -- The former Caesars Atlantic City president, stripped of his gaming license due to problems he blamed on compulsive gambling, lost his bid to rejoin the casino industry.

In a unanimous decision, the New Jersey Casino Control Commission said Gary DiBartolomeo should not be allowed early reapplication because his past misconduct was too severe. He has sat out two-plus years of the standard five-year revocation.

"In my judgment, two years is too short a period of debarment for the serious regulatory infractions that occurred in this case. Simply stated, lying to regulators is a very serious matter that cannot be tolerated," commission Chair Linda Kassekert said.

DiBartolomeo lawyer Lloyd Levenson pleaded with regulators to allow his client apply for the least-scrutinized position in the industry: a hotel registration. Levenson said DiBartolomeo would have no access to the casino and no connection to gaming matters and that he would agree to whatever restrictions or reporting requirements the commission wanted.

Kassekert called that offer "very compelling," but said DiBartolomeo needs to sit out longer for his past actions. After regulators discovered his gambling compulsion in 1994, DiBartolomeo failed to attend mandated therapy sessions, lied about his gambling activity and violated gaming regulations.

Most seriously, at his license-revocation hearing in November 2000 he failed to satisfactorily explain why he structured the repayment of an MGM Grand gambling debt so as to avoid federal currency reporting regulations.

DiBartolomeo said he hasn't gambled in 3.5 years, did not feel the urge to gamble while running international casino junkets, started a local Gamblers Anonymous chapter, has taken psychiatric medication and attended all counseling sessions. His psychiatrist said DiBartolomeo no longer shows any signs of pathological gambling.

Park Place Entertainment CEO Wally Barr, Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts COO Mark Brown and Aztar operations chief Dennis Gomes gave DiBartolomeo glowing character references and said they would hire him without hesitation.

The Division of Gaming Enforcement strongly opposed DiBartolomeo's re-entry, saying he has yet to atone for his past.

"We've just heard only about the recovery, only about the disease. It's about taking full responsibility, about addressing the underlying misconduct. Because that has not yet been done, that essentially leaves us in no difference place than we were at the time of the initial decision," Deputy Attorney General Gary Ehrlich said.

DiBartolomeo, 48, said he's having financial difficulty. He said he'll likely have to sell his house and has taken a job selling timeshares in Atlantic City. His firm's sales office, ironically, is in Trump Taj Mahal.

"I reaped what I sowed and I'm dealing with it," DiBartolomeo said. "This isn't easy. I feel sorry for my wife and children. Through no fault of their own they've had to live through this."

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Casino executives, Wall Street analysts and political leaders will gather in Atlantic City next week for the seventh annual Mid-Atlantic Gaming Congress, their eyes and ears tuned to a very unpopular man these days: New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey.

McGreevey will deliver the keynote speech, which will likely receive only polite applause. McGreevey has proposed hiking the casino revenue tax to 10 percent from 8 percent, imposing the 6 percent sales tax on casino complimentaries and creating a 7 percent lodging tax.

A big focus of the daylong May 21 conference will be 25th anniversary of casino gambling in Atlantic City.

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Resorts Atlantic City reported a $2.1 million first-quarter loss as its operating performance declined due to the effects of a $115 million expansion project and rough winter weather.

The independent casino, owned by Colony Capital, demolished an outdated 166-room hotel tower last fall and removed 161 slot machines. In their place will be a 459-room hotel tower and more casino space; the project is expected to open in a year.

Resorts reported cash flow of $5.2 million, down 30 percent, on net revenue of $52.3 million, down 9 percent.

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The Atlantic City Hilton and Caesars plan to open something new in the gaming industry on Saturday: beach bars. Trump Plaza will follow five days later.

The Casino Control Commission gave the three casinos final approval for the summerlong facilities, which will serve comped guests and the public alike. In addition to drinks, they'll have live entertainment, dance floors, cold food and other activities.

The Hilton and Caesars bars will be open till 10 p.m., Plaza's until midnight.

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Tropicana paid $40,000 to settle charges that it allowed minors to gamble on three separate visits. Two of the fines were for $10,000 for slot play and the other was $20,000 for table play.

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