Resorts Atlantic City was on the verge of closing several years ago until Morris Bailey bought the property for $30 million. After the death of Dennis Gomes, his first CEO, Bailey brought in Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment to run the property. Mohegan appointed longtime Atlantic City executive Mark Giannantonio as president and CEO.
In addition to adding meeting space, renovating hotel rooms and casino space, and introducing more F&B outlets, Giannantonio has guided the casino through the openings of two nearby casinos. He spoke with GGB Publisher Roger Gros at his offices at Resorts in July.
GGB: It’s been one year since your neighbors opened last year, Hard Rock and Ocean. What kind of impact did that have on Resorts?
Mark Giannantonio: Well, it’s an unprecedented amount of capacity to open all at one time. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen.
The great thing is that we’re attached to Hard Rock (via a pedestrian connection). Jim Allen and Joe Lupo are great operators. And you have the commitment from the Jingoli family and Jack Morris family. So it took that type of brand and that kind of leadership to take over that property to get it up and running so quickly. They’re doing a really good job there. So we’re happy that we’re connected to them. We try to work collectively, and we’re working as a group with Ocean as well, to try to rebrand this part of town. We think that’s very important.
You were up here on your own when those two properties at the end of the Boardwalk were closed. Does the opening of the two properties give you critical mass now?
There were pros and cons about being the only one. Clearly, when the five casinos closed, there was a lift in everybody’s boat. But at the end of the day, Atlantic City’s about bringing as many people to town as possible. So having Hard Rock connected to us, it just makes the synergy so much better.
But you just didn’t wait for the new properties to reopen. You make preparations.
When Morris (Bailey) was looking to buy something in Atlantic City, he looked at a number of different properties. He selected this property with the vision of bringing it back to life, but he needed to spend money here to bring this property back, which he’s allowed us to do. We really prepared for this day with the new casinos opening.
How do Morris Bailey and Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment work together?
After the unfortunate passing of Dennis Gomes, a dear friend of mine, Morris was about a year and a half into this, and he had to decide exactly what to do, and whether he was going to sell and get out, or double down.
He brought in Mohegan after a pretty extensive search for a management company. So, Mohegan is responsible for the management of the asset. They own 10 percent of the company. It’s like a match made in heaven. (Mohegan CEO) Mario Kontomerkos and his team do a great job. They’re doing a lot of expansion elsewhere, but this was one of the first assets that they took under management, so it’s important to them. They really have helped us and guided us about how we deploy capital.
Probably the most important thing is that we have the access to their database. They are a very good partner and with Morris, there’s no better person in the business.
The competition in Atlantic City has always been tough, and this round is no different. You’ve got these crazy tier-matching programs in all the casinos. How can you respond to that?
It really is crazy. I think it’s just everybody’s reaction to what is an extremely difficult period of time. Organically, the same store is just not growing where we’d like it to be. We’ve been bucking the trend a bit, where our tables are actually growing, and you know, we have great Asian business as well. But at the end of the day, it’s a hard market, and I don’t think it helps with all these aggressive offers. Some people think it’s a race to the bottom, and I can’t disagree.
You’ve been lucky enough to have DraftKings under your roof as one of the leading sports betting sites in New Jersey. How much has that helped bring new customers in here?
DraftKings are professionals beyond belief. Morris cut a great deal with them, and we’re excited about their success. We partnered and opened up what we think was the nicest and best sportsbook in Atlantic City back in November, and it’s immediately transformed our property. It’s a state-of-the-art sportsbook, but it’s coupled with a great sports bar, great food, and then we opened a sushi restaurant right next to it, and refined our Asian restaurant. So, that whole area has been livened up, and there’s no question, a whole new customer is coming to the property now. And that helps in so many ways. The ancillary revenues and gaming revenues are all going up. So we are thrilled about the success. And we’re certainly thrilled that DraftKings is doing so well online, too.