ATLANTIC CITY - Dennis Gomes, the co-owner of Resorts Casino Hotel in Atlantic City and a former mob-busting prosecutor in Las Vegas whose exploits were chronicled in the movie “Casino,’’ has died, a casino spokeswoman said yesterday. He was 68.
Mr. Gomes died at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia of complications of kidney dialysis, according to his son Aaron.
Dennis Gomes and New York real estate magnate Morris Bailey bought Resorts in August 2010 and saved the struggling casino from closing.
Mr. Gomes had a long career in the casino industry, with management jobs at the Tropicana Casino and Resort - where he famously turned a tic-tac-toe-playing chicken into a top draw - the Trump Taj Mahal Casino and Resort, the Golden Nugget in Las Vegas, and Hilton Nevada’s properties. His tenure as Nevada’s top casino corruption investigator was recounted in the 1995 Martin Scorsese film “Casino.’’
“Dennis was a great friend and a great executive,’’ said Donald Trump. “He was my top executive at the Taj Mahal and he did a tremendous job. Everybody liked him and respected him. This is just so shocking.’’
His death rocked the Atlantic City casino industry, where his co-owner, Bailey, pledged to continue Mr. Gomes’s policies.
“Dennis was a man of integrity who embraced all who knew him with respect and love,’’ Bailey said. “We have not only lost a business partner who was an industry leader and visionary; we have lost a friend and family member. We are committed to continuing Dennis’s vision for Resorts and Atlantic City, and our success will be a tribute to his memory.’’
Daniel Heneghan, a spokesman for the New Jersey Casino Control Commission, who knew Mr. Gomes for decades, said he always wanted to own a casino in Atlantic City.
“Dennis may have gotten his start in the industry in Nevada, but his heart clearly was in Atlantic City,’’ Heneghan said. “My heart breaks for his family and all the people at Resorts.’’
Mr. Gomes was famous for bizarre schemes to attract free publicity. While running Atlantic City’s Tropicana, he pitted a live chicken against customers in games of tic-tac-toe. To promote a casino in Indiana, he hired a Barack Obama look-and-sound-alike to urge gamblers to bring their “change’’ to the gambling hall. That earned him a rebuke from the White House, and free publicity.
It was no different at Resorts. Mr. Gomes erected a billboard showing a dancer’s naked rear end to promote a stage show, leading to a court battle with the state’s transit agency, which owned the billboard location. He staged an adults-only big top show called “The Naked Circus,’’ and opened the first gay nightclub in an Atlantic City casino.
After HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire,’’ the TV series based on Prohibition-era Atlantic City’s political and vice rackets, started taking audiences by storm, Mr. Gomes decided to re-brand the casino - whose hotel is an authentic 1920s edifice - to cash in on interest in the show and Atlantic City’s shady past. A key part of the new image was skimpy flapper costumes that female beverage servers were asked to wear.
Servers had to audition and be photographed in their new outfits; those deemed insufficiently sexy were fired.
That decision, along with the pay cuts, spurred three separate lawsuits, one of which is being handled by celebrity lawyer Gloria Allred, alleging age and sex discrimination. The lawsuits are pending.