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Gaming Guru

Joe Weinert
 

Atlantic City Roundup

22 September 2003

Atlantic City casino executives were breathing easier after viewing the August gaming-revenue report, which showed that the $1.1 billion Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa expanded the market in its second month of operation.

Borgata finished second on the revenue chart and propelled the industry to an all-time monthly record of $475 million, up 11.2 percent over the same month a year earlier. Citywide gaming revenue had grown only 4.4 percent during July, worrying executives that Borgata was cannibalizing the market.

Borgata not only grew the market last month but also surpassed Caesars and Trump Taj Mahal on the revenue list, winning $53 million. Borgata officials refuse to comment on their revenue results.

Bally's, which is essentially three casinos rolled into one, topped the revenue chart at $67.4 million, up 3.1 percent.

In another sign Borgata is expanding the market, five of the 11 casinos operating last year reported revenue increases. Showboat, which opened a 544-room hotel expansion in May, topped the gainers at 5.5 percent.

Borgata neighbor Trump Marina led the list of decliners, down 10.4 percent. Donald Trump said the casino continues to suffer from an connector between Trump Marina and Borgata that the state had promised would be completed before Borgata opened. Transportation officials now say it might be year end before the connector is finished.

Atlantic City casino revenue through the first eight months was 1.2 percent ahead of last yearâs pace at $3 billion.

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In a bald-faced political power play that could have a big impact on the casino industry, New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey forced out the head of the state Casino Reinvestment Development Authority.

McGreevey's office, not even bothering to put spin on the move, said removing Executive Director James Kennedy would relinquish state Sen. Bill Gormley's grip on the powerful agency.

Gormley, a powerful figure in Trenton and an undaunted casino industry champion, was instrumental in getting board members appointed to the CRDA and crafting legislation that directed agency reinvestment funds to be used for casino-expansion projects.

"Nowhere in the constitution is there any guarantee of authorities being under the control of a state senator," McGreevey spokesman Micah Rasmussen told The Press of Atlantic City.

Rasmussen said the agency failed to keep the governor's office informed about its activities.

McGreevey's move comes 2.5 months after he and Gormley had a nasty, months-long clash over the governor's hard-nosed push to raise gaming taxes across the board.

Gormley, who's up for re-election this fall, is co-chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. With the Senate split 20-20, any change in party power could further diminish Gormley's clout in Trenton.

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A miniature Donald Trump that bobs his head was the best casino promotion in the country this year, marketing whiz Dennis Conrad told an audience of hundreds at the Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas.

Trump Marina Hotel Casino gave away 10,000 Trump bobbleheads to preferred customers last winter. The casino offered them in three versions, which varied by the color of his tie.

"This is the best one of all. I just love this one. This is so Donald," said Conrad, president of Raving Consulting in Reno. "I can tell you bobbleheads are doing well in casinos."

There were audible groans among some casino executives in attendance at the egotistical nature of the Trump promotion, but Conrad said it was a unquestioned hit with customers and buzz-generator for the casino.

"It was my idea, I'm proud to say," said Todd Moyer, Trump Marina's senior vice president for marketing. "The hard part was getting up the courage to say, 'Hey, Mr. Trump ...' but he really liked it."

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The Gaming and Technology Conference, a five-year-old, daylong event in Atlantic City, named Park Place Entertainment winner of the second annual Larry Cole Award for Excellence and Innovation in Gaming Technology.

Officials cited Park Placeâs push into cashless slots and companywide player-loyalty program.

Cole, who passed away last year, pioneered a player-tracking system and helped create Advanced Casino Systems Corp. and was president of the firm until its sale to Bally Gaming and Systems.

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The two Indian casinos in Connecticut reported August slot-machine revenue of $153.1 million, up 5 percent over the year-earlier period. Foxwoods won $77.3 million, up 5.4 percent, and Mohegan Sun won $75.8 million, up 4.6 percent. They do not publicly report their table-games revenue.