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Atlantic City Round-Up

5 February 2002

by Joe Weinert

ATLANTIC CITY, New Jersey – Feb. 5, 2002 -- Worried about the impact of expanded gambling in surrounding states, gaming and tourism leaders told New Jersey legislators that they need help to meet the competitive threats and they need better marketing by the state.

James Hurley, chairman of the Casino Control Commission, said Atlantic City needs more hotel rooms to distance itself from the racinos in Delaware, anticipated casinos and racinos in New York and possible racinos in Pennsylvania and Delaware.

Hurley maintained his opposition to two introduced bills that would permit Atlantic City casinos to offer different forms of Internet gambling. "You do have revenue problems, you have regulatory problems, you have credit problems. Someday the technology might exist" to solve those problems, he told legislators.

*****

MGM Mirage continued to back away from any sort of timeline to build a proposed $1.5 billion casino resort in Atlantic City.

Until the Sept. 11 fallout, MGM Mirage had been gung-ho about the Atlantic City project. But when budget-crimped Northeast states began fast-tracking legislation to expand their gambling options, the company took the project off their priority list.

MGM Mirage officials said they must first reduce their debt and "rebuild" their Las Vegas-centric company, which was hurt by the post-Sept. 11 travel downturn .

"We have not lost sight of the fact that we're a company that's going to grow beyond our current base of business, whether it's internal growth by expanding some of our buildings, or development in Atlantic City, which we ultimately will do, or looking overseas," President Jim Murren said.

Chairman and CEO Terry Lanni said he's keenly watching the situation in Pennsylvania, where Ed Rendell might run for governor. As mayor of Philadelphia, he advocated riverboat casinos for the city, which is just 60 miles from Atlantic City.

*****

Two top Atlantic City casino executives are among 20 area business, labor and civic leaders named to a special panel charged with finding the financial means to keep the Miss America Pageant in its lifelong home of Atlantic City.

Timothy Wilmott, Eastern Division president of Harrah's Entertainment and also president of the Casino Association of New Jersey, and Resorts President Audrey Oswell join a group with such diverse members as a Philadelphia 76ers vice president, a newspaper publisher and a lawyer.

Mark Juliano, a former MGM Mirage executive and former Caesars Atlantic City president, also joins the panel.

The pageant, an 80-year Atlantic City tradition, last year threatened to bolt to the Mohegan Sun casino in Uncasville, Conn., which offered the nonprofit organization a handsome, undisclosed sum to move the event there.

*****

Park Place Entertainment is preparing to join the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority and Atlantic City Medical Center in building a 3,000-space public parking garage in the middle of Atlantic City.

The $50 million garage would serve Park Place's three Boardwalk casinos and its planned redeveloped Ocean One shopping mall, the hospital and a planned center-city retail and entertainment center.

Wally Barr, Park Place's chief operating officer, said his company has earmarked funds for the project and could commit to it this spring.

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