Suitors line up for AC Trop

Dec 18, 2007 6:28 AM

In the wake of a denial for a casino license, at least a half-dozen potential buyers have contacted New Jersey regulators about purchasing the Tropicana Casino and Resort, and a sale could take place within weeks, the head of the state Casino Control Commission said Friday.

Linda Kassekert appeared at a news conference at the Tropicana with former state Supreme Court Justice Gary Stein, the interim trustee who’s overseeing the casino until a buyer can be found, and Tropicana President Mark Giannantonio, who will stay on to run its day-to-day operations until the sale.

"I’m pleased to see that it is open and full and running," Kassekert said at a poinsettia-bedecked podium just off the casino floor, surrounded by Tropicana workers and curious gamblers. "The Tropicana is in great hands."

After meeting with Tropicana and casino commission staff on Friday, Stein decided Giannantonio was the best choice to stay and manage the nuts and bolts of the operation.

The Casino Control Commission stripped the Tropicana of its license last Wednesday after deciding its owner, Kentucky-based Columbia Sussex Corp. was incapable of running the type of "first class facility" required under state law.

That forces a sale of the property, which includes New Jersey’s largest hotel with 2,129 rooms.

"Just from the number of people who have reached out to me and to the justice, I don’t think it’s going to take all that long," Kassekert said. "I would say weeks. I’ve heard already from a half-dozen interested parties."

The commission and Stein plan to devise a process this week for interested parties to make their interest known and present formal offers.

No names of potential suitors were mentioned at the news conference. But Baltimore-based developer The Cordish Company told The Associated Press it was eyeing the Tropicana, saying, "It fits perfectly with our Atlantic City strategy and existing holdings in Atlantic City."

Other potential suitors include Penn National Gaming; Dennis Gomes, the Tropicana’s former chief executive who oversaw the property when it was owned by Aztar Corp.; and Pinnacle Entertainment, which lost a bidding war for Aztar to Columbia Sussex, but has since started its own $1.5 billion casino project here.