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Best of Howard Stutz

Gaming Guru

Howard Stutz

Gaming figure Dennis Gomes dies at 68

27 February 2012

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- Dennis Gomes had a 40-year gaming industry career worthy of a screenplay.

So it made perfect sense that when Gomes sat down with author Nicholas Pileggi to relate stories about his dealings in gaming enforcement and casino management in Las Vegas, they ended up in the 1995 Martin Scorsese film, "Casino."

Gomes, who died Thursday in Philadelphia of complications from kidney dialysis at age 68, was still carrying out scene-stealing events in Atlantic City, where he had served as chief executive officer and co-owner of Resorts Casino Hotel since December 2010.

Gomes and his partner, New York real estate mogul Morris Bailey, purchased the run-down Resorts Atlantic City for $31.5 million and vowed to return the property to profitability. Part of that component was re-branding the casino with a Roaring '20s theme, based on the success of HBO's "Boardwalk Empire." The television series depicts Prohibition-era Atlantic City's political and vice rackets.

In an interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal in August 2010, when the deal was announced, Gomes expressed hope about Atlantic City's potential rebound following nearly three years of declining gaming revenues.

"Right now, there is a lot of doom and gloom from Wall Street," Gomes said. "It comes in cycles. I really believe there is a tremendous amount of opportunity here."

In a statement, Bailey pledged to continue carrying out Gomes' policies at the casino.

"We have not only lost a business partner who was an industry leader and visionary, we have lost a friend and family member," Bailey said.

Gomes' colorful career included time as an agent and division chief for the Nevada Gaming Control Board. He later served as the chief of the Special Investigations Division of the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement.

Gomes went on to operate 14 casinos in his career, including the LVH - Las Vegas Hotel and Casino, Frontier, Aladdin, Dunes and Golden Nugget, all in Las Vegas, before heading to Atlantic City, where he ran the Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort and the Tropicana Atlantic City Casino & Resort. Since 2005, he operated Gomes Gaming, Inc. with his son, Aaron.

Aaron Gomes told The Associated Press his father had kidney problems and had been undergoing dialysis.

MGM Grand Las Vegas President Scott Sibella, who spent eight years working for Gomes in both Las Vegas and Atlantic City, said Gomes is the only gaming executive he's known to branch both law enforcement and the operations side of the industry.

"I learned so much about both sides of the business from Dennis," Sibella said. "He is someone I greatly admire. Dennis treated everyone the same way, with respect and like a family member, whether you were an employee or a customer."

Gomes served as president of Aztar Corp. when the company owned the Tropicana resorts in Las Vegas and Atlantic City. Before Aztar, Gomes worked for New York billionaire Donald Trump. His employment was the subject of a legal dispute between Trump and then-Mirage Resorts CEO Steve Wynn in 1991.

"Dennis was a great friend and a great executive," Trump said. "He was my top executive at the Taj Mahal and he did a tremendous job. Everybody liked him and respected him. This is just so shocking."

As a gaming agent in Las Vegas, Gomes was part of the team that stopped mob-led skimming operations at the Stardust and other properties run by the Argent Corp. Some of his exploits from those events made it into "Casino," which depicted the mob's influence on Las Vegas.

A memorable scene in "Casino," in which a Japanese high roller is kept from returning home with millions of dollars in winnings, came straight from Gomes' stewardship of the Dunes when his management company ran the casino in the early 1990s.

The high roller had won enough money to jeopardize the Dunes' casino cage bankroll. So, when he tried to return home, casino executives told the gambler his plane was having mechanical problems, delaying his trip. He returned to the Dunes for the night, and lost all his winnings, and more.

Gomes' death rocked the Atlantic City casino industry.

Daniel Heneghan, a spokesman for the New Jersey Casino Control Commission, who knew Gomes for decades, said Gomes always wanted to own a casino in Atlantic City.

"Dennis may have gotten his start in the industry in Nevada, but his heart clearly was in Atlantic City," Heneghan said. "My heart breaks for his family and all the people at Resorts."

Gomes is survived by his wife of nearly 40 years, Barbara, and four of his five children. His son, Douglas Gomes, died on Jan. 28. Funeral arrangements were pending.
Gaming figure Dennis Gomes dies at 68 is republished from