Landry’s eyes Boardwalk acquisition

Jul 18, 2006 3:11 AM

The owner of the Golden Nugget, Landry’s Restaurants, has been eyeing a possible Atlantic City casino acquisition, probably one of the Colony properties — Resorts or the Atlantic City Hilton.

Landry’s Chairman Tilman Fertitta makes no secret of his appetite for extending the use of the Golden Nugget brand. It is, he said, a brand with wide appeal. Landry’s has Golden Nuggets in Las Vegas and Laughlin.

And the AC Hilton was once a Nugget. It was built and opened as the Golden Nugget by Steve Wynn in 1980. It became a Bally property when Wynn sold it in 1986 and returned to Las Vegas to build The Mirage.

Resorts International was Atlantic City’s first casino, opening in the spring of 1978. It did not take long for the top bosses at other casino companies to stop by and check out the crowds. They invariably said something like, wow!

It’s hard to say whether Fertitta’s intense shopping for casino properties will result in a purchase. Candidates such as the ones he is scouting along the Boardwalk have been known to fall through at the last minute.

From Lake Tahoe to Laughlin, Fertitta did a lot of looking in Nevada before settling on the Golden Nugget. He was close to wrapping up a deal that would have given him the Riviera when he decided the Nugget made more sense because it seemed to offer greater possibilities for using the name elsewhere.

But looking at the aggressive proliferation of various Landry’s restaurant brands across the U.S. and more recently overseas, it is no surprise that Fertitta would be moving quickly to expand the use of the Golden Nugget name.

After all, there’s not a better place than the casino business to showcase several restaurant brands under one roof.

Like French fries and ketchup, dining and gambling go together.

Did Jersey learn anything at all?

Speaking of Atlantic City, we learned a lot about what is essential in government, watching New Jersey politicians fumble efforts to create a budget.

So, what is essential?

Sadly, common sense was not high on the list.

But mostly there was irony everywhere. There was enough irony to fill large, empty casinos as gamblers straggled out of Atlantic City following the news that legislators had failed to do their job and approve a budget by June 30.

Thus, casinos were closed for three days before legislative dealmakers could agree to agree.

But because there was no budget, Gov. Corzine explained, there was no revenue available to pay thousands of state workers including 192 casino inspectors whose presence is essential for casino operations but who are not otherwise classified as essential elements of state government.

Ironically, as casino visitors left Atlantic Çity, they stopped at freeway toll booths to pay tolls to men and women who were essential enough to remain on the job.

This must have made sense somewhere.

But wait a minute — some state employees were told that although they were "non-essential," their continued presence at the office was required to aid the "orderly cessation" of non-essential activity.

Irony so thick it suffocates.