The gaming industry was shocked in late February with the passing of a visionary member, Dennis Gomes. Always active and an advocate of physical fitness—he was a black belt in karate—Gomes reportedly suffered kidney failure in the last few weeks of his life and succumbed as a result.
Gomes was in the news several months ago when he sprinted across the casino floor to apprehend a thief who had stolen the purse of a woman dining in a Resorts restaurant. Several weeks later, he suffered a fractured back while moving a table in his Las Vegas vacation home. He tragically lost his oldest son, Doug Gomes, less than a month before his own death.
A seasoned gaming executive with experience in Las Vegas, Atlantic City and regional gaming, Gomes, 68, got his start in law enforcement. He was part of a team with the Nevada Gaming Control Board investigating Frank Rosenthal and the Stardust, a story that eventually became a book written by Nicholas Pileggi and a movie by Martin Scorsese called Casino. He was recruited in 1977 by the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office to take part in the investigation of Mary Carter Paints, a company that ran the Paradise Island casino in the Bahamas and was bidding for a license to run Atlantic City’s first casino, Resorts International, which Gomes ironically owned at the time of his death.
His experience in the gaming industry included jobs with Steve Wynn, where he ran the Downtown Golden Nugget in Las Vegas; and Donald Trump’s Taj Mahal in Atlantic City. He also ran the Tropicana hotels in both Las Vegas and Atlantic City, but it was the Boardwalk that called to him. During his time at the Tropicana, when it was owned by the Aztar Corp., Gomes presided over a huge expansion project that created the Quarter, a large non-gaming shopping/dining area that today has become the core of the hotel.
After leaving the Tropicana, Gomes joined forces with the Cordish Company to develop Indiana Live!, a racino outside of Indianapolis, today one of the most successful gaming operations in the state.
But it wasn’t until he returned to Atlantic City that he achieved a lifelong dream—to become a casino owner. Along with New Jersey developer Morris Bailey, Gomes paid about $30 million for Resorts Atlantic City, closing the deal in December 2010. During a difficult first year, Gomes’ legendary marketing expertise was put to the test. His redesign of Resorts echoed the 1920s, skillfully piggybacking on the success of the Atlantic City-based HBO series Boardwalk Empire, which focuses on a fictionalized life of Nucky Johnson, the “boss” of the Boardwalk during that period. Resorts offered not one but two circuses in the parking lot over the summer of 2011 and created Atlantic City’s first lounge dedicated to the LGBT community, Prohibition. Gomes’ loss throws into question the future of the property, which so much depended on his vision.