|By Donald Wittkowski, The Press of
Atlantic City, Pleasantville, N.J.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Feb. 24, 2012--ATLANTIC CITY -- Dennis Gomes, the chief executive officer of Resorts Casino Hotel and a marketing whiz whose wacky publicity stunts created national attention for the city he loved, has died.
Resorts spokeswoman Courtney Birmingham said Gomes died Thursday night, but she noted the company had no immediate plans to release the cause of death.
He was 68 and lived in Margate.
"We're trying to be respectful to his family right now," Birmingham said. "We know this was sudden, but we have to respect his family. Dennis was, above all else, a family man."
Gomes teamed with New York real estate magnate Morris Bailey to buy Resorts for $31.5 million in December 2010, saving Atlantic City's oldest casino from shutting down after it had defaulted on its mortgage and was taken over by lenders.
His death shook the casino industry.
"My family and I are deeply shocked and saddened by Dennis' untimely passing," Bailey said in a statement. "Dennis was a man of integrity who embraced all who knew him with respect and love. We have not only lost a business partner who was an industry leader and visionary -- we have lost a friend and family member. We are committed to continuing Dennis' vision for Resorts and Atlantic City, and our success will be a tribute to his memory."
Tributes poured in from other top gaming executives and casino regulators.
"It's a big blow," said Donald Trump. "Dennis was a friend and a terrific casino man."
Don Marrandino, president of the four Atlantic City casinos owned by Caesars Entertainment Corp., recalled Gomes as a man who loved Atlantic City.
"He was a guy who deeply cared about the city," Marrandino said. "We always talked about what we could do together to make things better."
Trump and Marrandino said Gomes' sudden death was shocking because he was well-known for his devotion to physical fitness and as a black belt in martial arts.
"Probably I've never known anyone else who worked so hard at staying physically fit," Trump said.
"He was a workout fanatic," Marrandino said. "He was always working out."
Gomes spent 40 years in the casino business in Atlantic City and Las Vegas. Early in his career as a Nevada gaming investigator, he exposed a money-skimming scam at the Stardust casino in Las Vegas that inspired the 1995 movie "Casino" starring Robert De Niro.
His career in Atlantic City included turns as a top executive at Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort and Tropicana Casino and Resort. At Tropicana, he oversaw the construction of The Quarter, a $285 million retail, restaurant and nightclub complex that opened in late 2004 and was at the forefront of Atlantic City's push for more nongaming attractions.
Gomes also developed a reputation as a casino marketing expert. In the process, he concocted some oddball promotional events that generated national headlines, including one publicity stunt that pitted gamblers against tic-tac-toe playing chickens for a $10,000 prize.
Linda M. Kassekert, chair of the New Jersey Casino Control Commission, remembered Gomes' response when she asked him whether the chicken stunt would stir controversy among animal-rights advocates.
"He told me, 'Listen, that chicken is living better than you and me are living. He has his own suite,''' Kassekert said of Gomes' sense of humor.
In taking over at Resorts, Gomes saved a money-losing casino on the brink of closing. With Bailey's financial backing, Gomes rebranded Resorts with a Roaring '20s theme that capitalized on the national publicity of the hit HBO series "Boardwalk Empire," which was inspired by Prohibition-era Atlantic City.
Resorts has continued to lose money, but Gomes had predicted the casino would make a turnaround this year. Resorts and the Golden Nugget Atlantic City were the only casinos to post higher revenue in January, both up 3 percent.
(c)2012 The Press of Atlantic City (Pleasantville, N.J.)
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