By Bill Ordine—My association with Dennis Gomes, the late CEO of Resorts casino in Atlantic City, went back a long way. And that would surprise his close friends and family, because Mr. Gomes and I spoke just once.
Dennis Gomes has been a long-distance acquaintance for at least two decades in the way that significant people become familiar to journalists. We read about them, study what they have to say, look at what they have accomplished. And by doing all those things, I felt I had become well acquainted with Dennis Gomes.
And, as anyone who has known Gomes in a more immediate way would clearly endorse, I found him to be a mighty impressive guy.
David Schwartz, arguably the pre-eminent authority on American gaming history, worked for Gomes at the Trump Taj Mahal in the mid-1990s. Schwartz noted his former boss’ unusual dual accomplishments—as an investigator who rooted out organized crime influences in Las Vegas casinos, and as a casino executive who brought vitality and fun to the places he operated.
And he did things with vision. At the Tropicana in Atlantic City, Gomes once brought in a chicken that played tic-tac-toe that generated lots of chuckles and plenty of PR. But it was Gomes’ plans for The Quarter, the dining-retail complex, that gave the Trop its identity.
When Gomes acquired Resorts in Atlantic City along with partner Morris Bailey in August 2010, turning around the historic casino was going to be Herculean effort, but everyone knew that with Gomes as point man, it was going to be an entertaining ride.
One of the first things Dennis Gomes did was push for the first rodeo at Boardwalk Hall last March. And that’s when I managed to get an interview with him.
We talked about how the rodeo championship in Las Vegas had been such a success and his own involvement with that event when he was in Nevada. And Gomes emphasized that Atlantic City needed to replicate the approach of creating a steady stream of events that would bring year-round visitation to town.
Among the things I admired about Gomes was a steadfast belief in that old adage about a rising tide lifting all boats, and that what was good for Atlantic City, in general, would be good for the entirety of the casino business. That there was a cooperative coalition of casinos that got behind the first Boardwalk rodeo and helped it be successful was pure Dennis Gomes. And when the Atlantic City Alliance introduced plans for this year’s rodeo, there was an unmistakable sense of a common undertaking that was a natural continuation of what Gomes had set in motion.
For the foreseeable future, the major story in Atlantic City will be the work of the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority and the Atlantic City Alliance, the public-private mission to buoy all of Atlantic City, and the casino industry along with it
And the efforts by the CRDA and the ACA that are beginning to take shape, such as enhancements on the Boardwalk and revitalizing major commercial thoroughfares, would have given wings to Dennis Gomes’ hopes for the casino he was trying to save and the city that he loved.
Dennis Gomes believed that a cooperative effort was essential to overcoming challenges being faced by the Jersey Shore town and its flagship industry. The best way to honor him would be to keep faith with that admirable ambition.
Bill Ordine is the editor of PhillyGambles.com
Photo: Gomes Gaming website, taken by Resorts customer