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Gaming Guru

Joe Weinert
 

Atlantic City Roundup

9 December 2003

ATLANTIC CITY -- Donald Trump realigned management at his Atlantic City casinos in a bid to put a miserable 2003 behind.

Mark Brown resumed his job of chief operating officer at the flagship Trump Taj Mahal, in addition to his duties as corporate chief operating officer of Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts and president of each Trump casino.

Cathy Walker, who had been Taj chief operating officer since last spring, took the same job at Trump Marina.

Paul Ryan, who had been Trump Marina chief operating officer for 14 months, moved back to his role of executive vice president of food and beverage and hotel operations for all Trump casinos.

"I'm a big believer in luck and karma, and we had our biggest numbers at the Taj in 2002 and I wanted to get that back," Brown said, referring to the year he managed Trump Taj Mahal to record profitability.

Brown said neither Walker nor Ryan were demoted, but rather moved to positions that best suit their talents.

Trump's Atlantic City casinos had a rough year, with revenue down $53 million, or 5.4 percent, through the first 10 months. Gross operating profit through the first nine months was $194 million, down 20 percent. Brown blamed the declines on bad first-quarter weather, the distraction of war and the summer opening of Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa.

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Quietly and with remembrance, workers resumed building the $245 million expansion at Tropicana Casino and Resort, just 33 days after a garage collapse killed four coworkers and injured 20.

"You're a little leery. It's always in the back of your mind," one worker said as he entered the job site.

About 30 workers continued their construction of the hotel and retail portions of the complex. Work on the 2,400-space garage remains on hold until the Occupational Safety & Health Administration completes its investigation. The agency must issue its final report within six months of the accident, or by April 30.

The expansion had been scheduled for completion in March. An Aztar spokesman would not say when it might now open, nor would he say whether it might open in increments.

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The new Borgata found another outlet for its sexy image with the sale of the 2004 Babes of Borgata calendar.

The $15 dateminder features full-page color photos of Borgata employees in lingerie. Included are Borgata Babe (the job title for the casino's cocktail waitresses) Mayobelle Taylor, who was Esquire magazine's Hostess of the Year; Playboy Millennium Playmate Carol Benaola, who is a part-time Borgata host; and poker dealer Annie Grajales, who is the calendar's cover girl.

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Tropicana unveiled what it believes is a casino-industry first: a high-limit slot area in which every game has a personal television monitor.

The reopened Crystal Room has 94 slots, each with a 7-inch LCD attached on a swing arm. Gamblers can select from 34 cable channels, three music channels and movies played from a central DVD player, all free of charge.

"We wanted to create the perfect environment for slot players," said Dennis Gomes, president of resort operations for Tropicana parent Aztar Corp.

The slots also feature built-in footrests, electronic smokeless ashtrays and complimentary earphones, all in an elegant room with crystal chandeliers and sconces.

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New Jersey regulators have the right to demand financial information from the spouses of applicants for a key casino license, the Appellate Division of Superior Court of New Jersey ruled in upholding a Casino Control Commission ruling last year.

Muriel Moy, who had been a marketing representative for Trump Plaza and Tropicana, was denied renewal of her key license last year because her husband, Tony, refused to explain $95,000 in transactions. He contended the matter was private and unrelated to his wife's licensing.

But the Division of Gaming Enforcement argued that since Mrs. Moy was the household's sole wage earner, regulators had a duty to check out his spending.

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Carl Icahn's Atlantic City casino fired Chief Financial Officer Timothy Ebling by notifying him that it would not renew his contract, which ended Nov. 30.

The move dissolves the other half of a two-man power block that had been together at Sands for 20 years. Together with former General Counsel Frederick Kraus, Ebling had survived numerous management changes, an ownership change and bankruptcy reorganization. They were solely responsible for Sands divorcing its former parent company, Greate Bay Casino Corp., during the 1998-2000 bankruptcy reorganization and aligning themselves with Icahn.

Kraus left Sands last winter, claiming that new management effectively forced him out.

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