|By Chuck Darrow, Philadelphia Daily
NewsMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Feb. 14, 2013--Atlantic City's Trump Plaza casino-hotel has been sold to a Southern California company for $20 million.
According to a release from Trump Entertainment Resorts, the midtown casino was purchased by Meruelo Gaming Holdings, LLC, an affiliate of The Meruelo Group, a Downey, Cal.-based entity whose diverse holdings include Spanish-language TV stations, engineering and construction companies and the Grand Sierra Resort and Casino in Reno, Nev.
"Trump Plaza is one of the world's most recognized gaming resort destinations and is an integral part of the Atlantic City landscape," said Alex Meruelo, founder and CEO of the Meruelo Group in a statement released to the press. "Our company is thrilled to have the opportunity to become the new owners of this property, and we are firmly committed towards establishing it as one of the elite destinations in Atlantic City and on the East Coast."
While there was no word on whether or not the new owner will keep the Trump name, Muruelo's statement seems to indicate they will.
The sale, which is subject to state approval, is expected to close by the end of May.
Trump Plaza, located between the Boardwalk and Pacific Avenue in the heart of midtown Atlantic City, opened in 1984 as Harrah's at Trump Plaza. It was a partnership between the gaming conglomerate -- then owned by Holiday Inn -- and Donald Trump. It was Trump's first foray into Atlantic City.
Within a couple years, Trump had bought out Harrah's and established the Plaza as the city's most-glamorous hotel-casino. In the late 1980s, the casino, which is connected via a walkway to what was then Convention Hall (now Boardwalk Hall) sponsored such mega-events as heavyweight championship fights (the party prior to the June 27, 1988 Mike Tyson-Michael Spinks match remains the most star-studded soiree of the town's legal-casino era) and the three concerts that ended the Rolling Stones' 1989 North American tour.
The casino prospered through the 1990s. But its fortunes began to change in 2003, when Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa opened with a marketing plan that focused more on upscale, younger customers rather than those folks' parents and grandparents.
The introduction in 2006 of legal casinos in Pennsylvania, aided by the subsequent Great Recession, accelerated the property's downward slide. Because of crushing debt and increasingly lower gaming revenues, the physical plant and infrastructure deteriorated, and the casino, whose showroom once hosted the likes of Tom Jones and Tony Bennett, was pretty much abandoned.
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