Lenders take over NJ's 1st casino for nonpayment

AP News
Posted: Dec 09, 2009 11:22 PM

Don't pay your mortgage, and eventually the bank will own your home.

That's what's happening to Resorts Atlantic City, which enjoys a special spot on the national gambling scene as the first U.S. casino outside Nevada.

Unable to make debt payments for more than a year, Resorts was concluding the process late Wednesday of handing itself over to a newly formed company consisting of its main lenders, including Wells Fargo. The ownership transfer follows Resorts' agreement to let its lenders have the casino if they cancel nearly $381 million in debt.

Documents were exchanged and signed Wednesday evening, ahead of the deal's official closure Thursday morning.

The new company, RAC Atlantic City Holdings LLC, says it wants to sell Resorts Atlantic City as quickly as possible. But with financing still extremely tight and consumers, including gamblers, still holding onto their wallets, that may not happen soon.

Analysts said Resorts had no option but to give the bank the keys _ a tactic other businesses, including many hotels, have employed lately.

"You're in a hotly competitive environment in which every operator, not just in New Jersey but in every market, is going to fight for every dollar and every customer," said Michael Pollock, managing director of Spectrum Gaming Group, a New Jersey consulting firm. "The competitive landscape is just brutal."

Resorts, whose gross operating profit fell nearly 80 percent in the third quarter of this year, owed nearly $337 million more than it had on hand as of last month.

The deal concluding Wednesday night was approved last month by state casino regulators. It called for former owner Colony Capital LLC to hand its interest in the casino to co-owner Nicholas Ribis, who will manage the casino and continue to own the gambling equipment inside it.

Ribis says he may try to buy Resorts.

Resorts opened in May 1978, ushering in the casino gambling era in Atlantic City. But in recent years, newer and bigger casinos that opened nearby have dwarfed it. It also was hurt when slots parlors in neighboring Pennsylvania began siphoning off its most loyal customers, mainly day-tripping seniors who would ride the bus to play slots for a few hours.