he move came as a state-appointed trustee prepared to take charge of the troubled property. The casino and its hotel - the largest in New Jersey with 2,129 rooms - continued to operate on Thursday, and state officials stressed that there would be no disruption to the Tropicana’s operations, regardless of who owns it.
The state Casino Control Commission appointed former state Supreme Court Justice Gary S. Stein to oversee the Tropicana’s operations until it can be sold. But Kentucky-based Columbia Sussex Corp. filed an appeal Thursday morning with an appellate panel.
"We’re asking for a stay of that order," said Columbia Sussex attorney Paul O’Gara, who declined to comment further. An aide to appellate Judge Joseph F. Lisa said the application was being considered, but offered no timetable for a decision.
The casino commission’s decision marked only the second time in the 29-year history of legalized gambling in New Jersey that it had denied a license renewal. The last time was in 1989 when it ruled that the owners of the former Atlantis Casino were too financially shaky -- to the point where regulators feared the casino did not have enough cash on hand to pay jackpots to winning gamblers.
Stein planned to be in Atlantic City on Friday to meet with the casino commission.
He said "It’s different, I’ll tell you that." Stein served on New Jersey’s high court for more than 17 years, and added he could not speculate on who would run day-to-day operations at the Tropicana, but said it would not be him.
Meanwhile, speculation swirled about possible purchasers for the Tropicana if Columbia Sussex is not successful in overturning the commission’s decision. Numerous gambling companies have expressed interest in either entering the Atlantic City market, or expanding their presence here.
With the current cost of acquiring land, clearing it and building a new casino hovering around us$ 2 billion, it could prove cheaper to buy an existing casino.
David Cordish, president and chairman of the Baltimore-based Cordish Company, which was rumored to be interested in Donald Trump’s three casinos, said his firm is considering the Tropicana. "We have been approached on multiple levels and are taking a very, very hard look," he said. "It fits perfectly with our Atlantic City strategy and existing holdings in Atlantic City."
Cordish built The Walk, a us$ 110 million retail-entertainment district in the heart of Atlantic City between the convention center and casinos.
One name on virtually everyone’s short list of candidates is Dennis Gomes, the Tropicana’s former chief executive who oversaw the property when it was owned by Aztar Corp. He led a failed effort to buy one or more of Donald Trump’s casinos this summer, and declined comment Thursday on whether he’s interested in the Tropicana.
Casino analysts predicted great interest in the Tropicana from outside suitors.
Deutsche Bank Securities Inc., in a report Thursday morning, named Gomes and Wynn Resorts as potentially interested buyers. A message left with Wynn Resorts seeking comment was not immediately returned Thursday. Penn National Gaming declined to say whether it was interested.
Harrah’s Entertainment said it would not pursue the Tropicana because it already owns four Atlantic City casinos and expected to run into antitrust problems if it tried to buy a fifth in this 11-casino city.
Dan Lee, chairman of Pinnacle Entertainment, which is building a new us$ 1.5 billion casino here on the former Sands Hotel casino site here, lost a bidding war with Columbia Sussex last year to buy the Tropicana.
Messages left Thursday with seven other major gambling companies, including MGM Mirage, Boyd Gaming, and Isle of Capri Casinos were not immediately returned. In the meantime, the Tropicana promised its guests they would see no difference at the property.
"I want the public to know that the Tropicana will remain fully open for business in Atlantic City," Tropicana president Mark Giannantonio said in a statement. "We have a very dedicated and hardworking staff here who will remain committed, as always, to provide our guests with a quality experience throughout their stay."