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STATESIDE


Stateside I


love old classic movies. They reflect the history, culture and attitudes of their day, and their stars remain frozen in time. If only we could do that. I recently watched the seven-part Moguls and the


In northern Nevada, some Reno and Carson City casinos also struggle. Their glow has paled compared to newer market entries


Movies television series. It documented Hollywood’s glamour, history, films and stars from the early 1900s through the 1960s. The show explored celebrities’ career survival as they repeatedly reinvented themselves during their lives. Casinos face similar challenges as the early “queens” age and fade away. The five favorite Las Vegas casinos of 1950s and 1960s “rat pack” members Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr, Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop will all soon be but a memory. Following the others, the Sahara, the final property, will close for good on May 16. The Desert Inn made way for Wynn Las Vegas, the Dunes became the Bellagio, the Aladdin turned into Planet Hollywood and the Las Vegas Sands is now the Venetian. The powers that be decided that no amount of makeup could or should save them. In northern Nevada, some Reno and Carson City


casinos also struggle. Their glow has paled compared to newer market entries there and in neighboring California. Other gaming options along the four-hour drive from San Francisco to Lake Tahoe at the state line compete with Nevada casinos that need a competitive edge. Is the solution constantly renovating? The Borgata, open since July 2003, thinks so. Parent company Boyd Gaming Corp. will spend $50 million, or $31,000 per room, to renovate the property’s original 2,000-room hotel tower. The Borgata is expected to heavily compete with the $2.4 billion Revel megaresort, which is scheduled to open in mid-2012. The Mississippi Gulf Coast continues to expand its


menu of casinos since rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina. Executives refurbish the rooms and amenities on a regular basis. Buildings are one thing, but how about staff? Should youth and looks be allowable criteria for hiring and firing? As Dennis Gomes, co-owner of Resorts Atlantic


City since December 2010, overhauls the aging casino site, he faces public controversy. Part of the Resorts’ total Roaring ’20s revamp includes revealing new cocktail server flapper costumes. To attract a more youthful clientele, Gomes is creating an edgier, sexier atmosphere. The outfits debut on Memorial Day weekend in late May. Upon taking ownership, Gomes retained 23 of the 70


10 MAY 2011


Sharon Harris looks at the struggle for reinvention


cocktail existing servers. However, 16 women, aged 40s to 60s, recently lost their jobs after a local modeling agency judged them unfit to wear the sexy outfits. The process allegedly involved submitting unidentifiable photos of each server, from her neck down, in costume. The three-judge panel then voted yes or no. The servers’ union rep charges Gomes with using the costumes as a smokescreen to eliminate middle- aged servers. He says their termination came on the last day of a 90-day probationary period. He also alleges that Resorts only kept the first group, firing the rest from all age groups, to avoid legal complaints. Expect an age-discrimination lawsuit against


Resorts with the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights. Gomes denies the charges, promising everything was handled objectively. The same union battled the Borgata in 2005. Management limited its “Borgata Babes” servers from gaining more than seven percent of their body weight. The discrimination lawsuits were settled confidentially, but the policy remains. It seems that younger and newer, whether it be a


casino building, an employee or a celebrity, often trumps “seasoning and maturity”. All three must determine when to hold on and when to gracefully step aside for the new kid on the block. Finally, here are two quick follow up stories. Ironically,


150 years to the week that the American Civil War began, a Gettysburg casino developer has surrendered. In mid-April, by 6-1, the Pennsylvania Gaming Board rejected the Mason Dixon Resort & Casino, to be located close to Gettysburg’s historic battlefield. Hundreds of miles away in southwestern Pennsylvania, the Nemacolin Woodlands Resort got the nod. Second, I recently attended a 90-minute town hall meeting, where New Jersey Governor Chris Christie heard from 600 local citizens. Amazingly, no one asked about the casino district. I did give his aide a copy of my March pro-Christie Stateside Column. Atlantic City casino property officials are hopeful.


While recently having lunch with Atlantic City Hilton COO Michael Frawley, he praised Christie’s plan. Frawley said, “New facilities will come at the


expense of existing properties. No single facility will change the macro outlook for Atlantic City until the actual and perceived operating environment changes. The Governor’s Tourism District Plan is part of that. Recent regulatory changes are providing the necessary agility and ability to compete with neighboring competition. This is welcome news. We’ve begun the journey, but it is paramount we remain aggressive.”


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