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Atlantic City News Round Up.

17 December 2002

ATLANTIC CITY -- Donald Trump chose to stay the course with his casino operations, signing Mark Brown to a four-year extension as chief operating officer of Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts.

Brown, 41, took over the company's operations in June 2000, after Nicholas Ribis left. Trump Hotels had to notify Brown by Jan. 31 whether it intended to extend his contract.

Financial terms of Brown's new deal weren't disclosed, but he earned $1.2 million this year and, under the old agreement, was due for $100,00 annual raises if extended.

"I like the fact they are being consistent with our management team," Brown said. "Everything we've been saying -- control costs, stick with our management plan, treat the employees right -- is working. I like to lay back and let the numbers speak for themselves."

Trump Hotels' earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization -- a key measure of cash flow in the gaming industry -- was up 24 percent through the first nine months this year. Its net income for that period was $5.3 million compared to a net loss of $15.1 million for the same period last year.

Trump said he never considered replacing Brown. "He's done a terrific job. We're very happy with him," Trump said.

Brown's extension came at a crucial time for Trump Hotels, which next month is expected to hit the bond market to refinance $312 million in Trump Marina Hotel Casino debt that's due in 11 months.

"Hopefully this sends a very positive message to the investment community," Trump said.

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With a whirling karate kick, Aztar Corp.'s Dennis Gomes broke wall -- not ground -- to kick off Tropicana's $16 million Marketplace At The Boardwalk retail and entertainment project.

Gomes, president of resort operations and a fourth-degree blackbelt, said the Marketplace will make Tropicana a destination for Boardwalk pedestrians and provide overnight guests with another nongaming attraction.

The project includes giving Tropicana's bland Boardwalk facade a lively theme that complements the Old Havana theme of its unrelated $225 million hotel and retail expansion taking place on the other side of the property.

Tenants in the 21,000-square-foot Marketplace will include Corky's, the first southern barbecue in Atlantic City; a James Salt Water Taffy store; a beer garden with 101 draft beers on tap; a Starbucks; a renovated Hooters; and five colorful kiosks.

Construction, which began last month, is expected to be completed in February.

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The Casino Control Commission accepted fines of $20,000 from Harrah's Atlantic City and $10,000 from Trump Taj Mahal for allowing minors to gamble.

Harrah's paid the steeper fine because the minor, a 20-year-old woman, was playing blackjack for an hour, thus interacting with employees who could have easily asked for identification. The minor at the Taj was a 19-year-old woman who had been playing slots for a half-hour.

"I think in general in the casino industry there is a reluctance to ask for identification," Harrah's lawyer Luther Anderson said. Harrah's has since told its table-games employees to card anyone who looks younger than age 25.

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Telecom giant WorldCom Inc. could lose $300,000 worth of Atlantic City casino business if it misses one more deadline for filing a service-industry license, the Casino Control Commission ruled.

WorldCom, beset with financial scandals and operating under bankruptcy protection, has either missed deadlines or filed incomplete applications, the Division of Gaming Enforcement said.

If WorldCom fails to apply by Dec. 31, casinos will be barred from contracting new business with the firm as of Jan. 2 and ordered to cease all existing business by Jan. 15.

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The closely guarded financial results of Turning Stone Casino Resort aren't a secret any more.

The casino, operated by the Oneida tribe near Syracuse, N.Y., had to open its books to potential investors for a $135 million bond deal. Turning Stone generated net revenues of $207.3 million for the fiscal year ended Sept. 30. Its gross gaming revenue was $179.8 million. Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization was $86.3 million, for a 41-percent cash-flow return on its net revenue.

Turning Stone will use the bond sale to help fund a $308 million expansion that includes another hotel tower, two golf courses and a casino addition.

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Atlantic City's closest gaming competition, the three Delaware racetracks, reported slot-machine revenue of $42.4 million for the four-week November reporting period, up 3.6 percent over the same period last year.

Atlantic City's total gaming revenue for November was $347.4 million, up 1.6 percent, according to official figures released last week.

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

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