When the man widely hailed as a marketing genius died suddenly last year, many worried that Resorts Casino Hotel, the struggling Atlantic City gambling hall he and a partner had recently bought, might also meet its demise.
But since the February death of Dennis Gomes, his business partner Morris Bailey, who provided most of the financing for the Resorts purchase, has remained steadfast in his support of Resorts, despite a difficult market and ever-increasing competition from casinos in neighboring states.
Resorts plans to spend $60 million in the first half of 2013 on renovations and an expansion designed to help it become more of a player in the Atlantic City gambling market.
In addition to the $35 million Jimmy Buffett-themed Margaritaville entertainment complex, Resorts is also renovating hotel rooms, re-doing bathrooms, adding a food court and two new VIP players' clubs, laying down new carpet on the casino floor, and making improvements to the parking garage.
"We intend to really wow our customers," said Mark Giannantonio, the former head of the Tropicana Casino and Resort who will become Resorts' new president on Monday. "This is a really big upgrade."
Gary Van Hettinga, who has been running the casino for the Mohegan Indian tribe under a management agreement with Resorts, said the changes include every mattress in each hotel room, and redoing 259 bathrooms in the casino's Ocean Tower.
He said Resorts was just about breaking even before Superstorm Sandy hit on Oct. 29. That storm sent the Atlantic City market into a tailspin from which it is still trying to recover.
The storm only delayed the Margaritaville project by about a week, and it remains on track to open by Memorial Day weekend, said Van Hettinga, who will now split his time between Atlantic City and other Mohegan casinos in Connecticut and Pennsylvania.
The previously announced Margaritaville project includes the Landshark Bar & Grill, the It's 5 O'Clock Somewhere bar, and the Margaritaville Casino, a Buffett-themed slots area.
Resorts has also hired Mark Sachais as its vice president of hotel operations. He is a former top executive at Trump Marina and Trump Plaza in Atlantic City.
In the first 11 months of 2012, Resorts won $121.3 million from gamblers, ranking it eighth out of Atlantic City's 12 casinos.
Wayne Parry can be reached at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC