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Gaming Guru

Joe Weinert
 

Atlantic City Roundup

30 September 2003

ATLANTIC CITY -- Atlantic City casino bosses voted to suspend Donald Trump's gaming company from their trade association, but Trump said, in effect, "You canât suspend me; I've resigned."

The Casino Association of New Jersey said Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts must pay a $135,000 bill before it can resign. The amount was Trumpâs share of a special assessment to cover the cost of fighting New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey's gaming taxes.

The association billed each casino $45,000, or $135,000 each for three-casino owners Trump Hotels and Park Place Entertainment. Trump Hotels, however, contends that all association bills are done on a per-company basis, not a per-casino basis. That means Trump would pay one-seventh of the association bill instead of three-twelfths, or one-quarter.

"One vote, one bill is how itâs written," said Trump's top executive, Chief Operating Officer Mark Brown. "This is brutal, paying 25 percent. If you take the total money I've paid -- my one-seventh -- I've paid close to $20,000 too much. I'm not asking for change, but this $135,000, that's not my bill. I don't owe this money."

Casino Association spokesman Carl Golden said the group unanimously voted in February to switch to per-casino billing just for costs related to the tax fight. Trump's representative was among those voting for the switch, Golden said.

Although Trump Hotels no longer has standing in the association, the company is still on the hook for $135,000, Golden said. "We would hope they do the right thing and meet their obligations," he said.

Donald Trump said he was also upset with association's attack on McGreevey during the tax fight, as well as the result -- $90 million in new gaming taxes.

"Honestly, if the result were better, then Iâd look and say, letâs get it (the bill) worked out, but it was so badly handled, so badly run," Trump said. "They tried to put the politicians in a corner and it obviously didnât work out and backfired."

The Casino Association represents the six other gaming companies in Atlantic City, which together own nine of the 12 casinos.

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Two more casinos cut jobs as the industry prepares for the seasonal slowdown and the impact of a new competitor and higher gaming taxes.

Tropicana cut 43 jobs and Resorts is eliminating 20. The cuts come three weeks after 300-plus employees lost their jobs the three Trump casinos.

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A state senator frequently active in gaming legislation said he will not seek re-election in two weeks after approaching a stranger in Trump Marina Hotel Casino and telling her, "I want to suck your toes," perform a sex act and "giver her a night that she would never forget," according to a police complaint.

Joseph Suliga, a married Democrat from Linden, indicated that he was drunk and will undergo alcohol counseling. In a statement he apologized to the woman, his family and friends, legislators and constituents.

Suliga, 45, has been in the Senate since 2002 and fist held elected office in 1977.

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The Casino Control Commission fined Trump Marina $60,000 for allowing a minor to gamble 68 times, a penalty the Division of Gaming Enforcement argued was far too lenient.

"The commission must send a clear signal to the industry that Trump Marina's conduct in allowing this 19-year-old to gamble 68 times over a 10-month period, and in issuing him a dozen complimentaries, is totally unacceptable," Deputy Attorney General Timothy Ficchi argued. "Only a severe sanction will make it clear to the public that New Jersey is serious about deterring underage gambling."

The DGE said a $1.2 million fine was justified, based on per-incident precedents, but sought a $199,000 fine based on a 1991 precedent of applying an 85 percent reduction.

The commission voted 5-0 to accept commissioner Michael Epps' $60,000 recommendation, made after a daylong hearing in March. Epps said Trump Marina was not careless and that the minor could reasonably be mistaken for being at least 21.

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The tic-tac-toe chickens are flying the coop at Tropicana Casino and Resort, two years after they arrived and sparked a worldwide wave of publicity that the casino estimated was worth more than $1 million in publicity.

The barnyard birds, assisted by a hidden computer, matched X's and O's with steady lines of gamblers since their first day on the job. Five gamblers beat the chickens, winning the $10,000 prize before Tropicana switched to a more frequent-hitting, lower-paying tic-tac-toe game called Chickens in Training.

Casinos around the country hopped aboard the bandwagon, prompting an outfit called the University of Feathers to set up shop at the Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas two weeks ago and claim the tic-tac-toe chickens are the ãhottest promotion in the industry!"

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