ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — A state senator says the company that bought the former Atlantic Club Casino Hotel wants to make sure it never reopens as a casino.
James Whelan, a former mayor of Atlantic City, wrote this week to New Jersey casino regulators complaining about what he says are attempts by Caesars Entertainment to prevent a future buyer from operating the property as a casino. He said the company is seeking a deed restriction to be part of any future sale of the property dictating that it cannot be used as a casino again.
Caesars and Tropicana Entertainment jointly bought the Atlantic Club out of bankruptcy court, divided its assets and closed it Jan. 13. Tropicana got the gambling equipment and customer lists, and Caesars got the property and its 801-room hotel.
In a letter sent Wednesday to the state Casino Control Commission and the state Division of Gaming Enforcement, Whelan said letting Caesars prevent the property from ever again becoming a casino is bad for Atlantic City.
"Instead of maximizing the sale price, as most sellers would, they are more interested in limiting future potential competition," Whelan wrote. "While it may well be that the current market would make it unlikely that the property would re-open as a casino, there is no telling what the market conditions will be in 15, 10, or even five years from now. Shouldn't we allow the market to dictate if and when this property could become a casino again, not have Caesar's restrict competition?"
Earlier this year, Whelan wrote to the same casino regulators asking them to block Caesars from making a bid to buy the distressed Revel Casino Hotel, which is considering selling itself or making a second bankruptcy filing. Whelan said allowing Caesars, which already owns four of Atlantic City's 11 casinos, to add another one would violate state law giving any one company an "undue economic concentration" in Atlantic City.
Caesars Entertainment owns Caesars Atlantic City, Harrah's Resort Atlantic City, Bally's Atlantic City and the Showboat Casino Hotel.
Caesars won't say if it is interested in Revel, and company spokesman Gary Thompson declined to comment on Whelan's letter.
The joint bid by Tropicana and Caesars was widely seen as a long-overdue contraction of the Atlantic City market, which could not support the amount of casinos it had. The seaside gambling resort has been steadily losing revenue, market share and jobs for more than seven years as casinos continue to open in neighboring states.
About 1,600 workers lost their jobs when the Atlantic Club closed.
Wayne Parry can be reached at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC