Cordish a bidder for N.J. casino

Several in running to acquire Tropicana, conservator says

June 03, 2008|By Lorraine Mirabella | Lorraine Mirabella,Sun reporter

The chairman of Baltimore-based Cordish Co., which is expanding into gaming management, confirmed yesterday that it is among a number of bidders vying to acquire Atlantic City's Tropicana Casino and Resort.

The casino hotel complex lost its gambling license in December and was turned over to a New Jersey-appointed conservator, who is trying to sell the still-operating property.

The Cordish Co. and gaming industry veteran Dennis Gomes recently formed a gaming management company - Gomes + Cordish Gaming Management LLC - to pursue projects in Atlantic City. Cordish developed and owns the Walk, a $110 million retail project in the resort's core.

In an e-mail yesterday, Cordish Chairman David S. Cordish said through a spokeswoman that construction will start soon on an expansion of the Walk, and that the company is pursuing other projects in Atlantic City. Gaming is one of Cordish Co.'s three divisions, along with real estate development, including Baltimore projects Power Plant and Power Plant Live; and a group that runs and owns restaurants, bars, clubs and performance venues.

"The Cordish Co. remains actively involved in bidding on the Tropicana and expanding its holdings in Altantic City," Arlene Friedman, the spokeswoman, said.

Last week, the Tropicana's conservator, retired New Jersey State Supreme Court Justice Gary S. Stein, asked the state's Casino Control Commission to extend the June 9 deadline to find a buyer. Stein said he made the request because of marketplace conditions and because the Tropicana's former owner, Tropicana Entertainment, has sought Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

The commission voted in December to not renew the Tropicana's casino license and found that Tropicana Entertainment was not qualified to own a casino hotel in Atlantic City.

Under the state's Casino Control Act, a state-appointed trustee has at least 120 days to find a suitable buyer, but the commission can extend the deadline. The commission expects to consider the request tomorrow.

Stein said in a statement that he has received expressions of interest from potential buyers, some as recently as in the last week.

Friedman also said in the e-mail yesterday that the Cordish Co. is not involved in former business partner Richard T. Fields' deal, announced last week, to buy the troubled Trump Marina Hotel Casino in Atlantic City.

Fields' Coastal Marina LLC is buying the casino from Trump Entertainment Resorts Inc., the casino company founded by Donald Trump. Fields was a partner with the Cordish Co. in the Power Plant Entertainment subsidiary, which developed two Hard Rock hotel and casino complexes in Tampa, Fla., and Hollywood, Fla., for the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

Subsequently, Trump sued Power Plant Entertainment, claiming that Power Plant inked its deal with the Seminoles by posing as Trump associates, a claim Cordish has denied.

Fields is a former Trump partner and employee who represented Trump in talks with the Seminoles several years before joining with Cordish. Fields' purchase of the Marina from Trump also settles the litigation between Trump and Fields.

"We have no involvement in the [Fields] purchase of the Marina, and the only connection to us is that we have agreed to release our claim in the Florida litigation which was terminated as between all parties," Friedman said.

Cordish Co.'s first announced gaming management project with Gomes is to be a slot machine casino at Indiana Downs, a horse racing track outside Indianapolis. Cordish Co. will develop and run the slots casino for the track's majority owner, Oliver Family Trusts.

lorraine.mirabella@baltsun.com

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