Pinnacle says it won't sell NJ land dirt-cheap

AP News
Posted: Oct 29, 2010 8:56 AM
Pinnacle says it won't sell NJ land dirt-cheap

Pinnacle Entertainment Inc., whose plans for a mega-casino resort on the Atlantic City Boardwalk shriveled and died when the economy crashed, says it won't sell its land here dirt-cheap.

The Las Vegas company bought most of the nearly 20-acre site for $270 million from entities affiliated with billionaire investor Carl Icahn four years ago and later added nearby land worth another $70 million.

The company said the land's current book value is $38 million. But Pinnacle said it's content to hold out until a better deal turns up.

"Atlantic City has been very painful for Pinnacle," the company's president and CEO Anthony Sanfilippo said on a conference call Thursday morning.

But, he added, "We are not going to exit Atlantic City in a giveaway fashion. A lot of land was acquired. That's a pretty prime piece of real estate. We want to make sure we get the appropriate value for it."

Pinnacle imploded the Sands Casino Hotel in 2007 to make way for a beach house-themed resort in a wave of new investment several developers proposed for the nation's second-largest gambling market _ before the bottom fell out of the economy.

Of four Atlantic City projects then on the drawing board that were worth a combined $10 billion, only one proceeded, the Revel casino. It ran out of money halfway through construction; about $1 billion worth of work remains on the interior of the development, which officials consider too far along to abandon.

Since then, some New Jersey lawmakers have proposed changing state law to enable developers to build smaller casinos with as few as 200 rooms, down from the current 500-room minimum.

On the conference call, a stock analyst asked Sanfilippo if Pinnacle might consider using its Atlantic City land for such a scaled-down casino if it could not get an acceptable price for its land here.

"Sure, it's a possibility," Sanfilippo said.

But Kerry Andersen, a Pinnacle spokeswoman, said after the call that there are no plans for Pinnacle to do anything with the land other than sell it for a decent price.