By his own admission, Tilman Fertitta isn’t a gambling man. But that didn’t stop the Texas billionaire from recently placing a $38 million bet in Atlantic City when his company, Landry’s Inc., bought the financially-strapped Trump Marina and immediately re-branded it with one of the most iconic names in the gaming business: the Golden Nugget.
“I’m really not a gambler in casinos, I never really have been,” Fertitta says. “I’d rather take a multi-million dollar gamble in business than spend a few dollars in a casino. Put it this way: Before I got into this business, they didn’t send many limos to pick me up.”
Fertitta’s company was best known for its various restaurant brands before it got into the casino business in Las Vegas several years ago by purchasing the Golden Nugget.
Now he’s betting on A.C.’s fortunes to turn around in the next couple of years, and he pointed out that even with a three-year slide in casino revenues, Atlantic City is still the nation’s second-largest casino market.
He also said the location of his newest acquisition had a lot to do with his decision to snap up Trump Marina for 10 percent of what it cost to build in 1985. “When we look at this property, it’s location, location, location,” he says. “[It’s] overlooking the [state] marina, you’re right here between Harrah’s and Borgata. And ... it was built in the late ‘80s; it’s got great high ceilings and it’s got an unbelievable entrance. It was just never upgraded.”
Renovations of the Golden Nugget began even before Landry’s officially purchased the property in May. In the days before the New Jersey Casino Control Commission conditionally approved the sale of the property, the casino’s previous owner, Trump Entertainment Resorts, allowed Landry’s to begin removing the Trump name from the property and start interior work on restaurants, lounges, bars and hotel rooms and suites.
The day state gaming regulators signed off on the transfer, there seemed to be as many construction workers scurrying around the property as when Hilton Hotels was finishing up the place in 1985. Hilton was then denied a state casino license and quickly sold the new casino to Donald Trump.
Two days after Landry’s officially took over, the Golden Nugget debuted the Chart House, a seafood restaurant that’s one of Landry’s signature brands. The room had been home to the Harborview restaurant for years. But in just 10 days, it had been completely transformed into the Chart House, complete with a new menu and décor.
Without saying so, the rapid renovation of that one restaurant signaled the determination of Fertitta’s company to remake the Golden Nugget from top to bottom. By the end of the year, Landry’s hopes to remodel all 740 of the property’s guest rooms and suites, add at least three more high-end dining rooms, open a new nightclub, reconfigure the casino floor, add more retail space and completely transform the building’s exterior, which critics have said has the architectural appeal of an aging hospital.
By the time the renovations are complete, Landry’s will have spent nearly $200 million on the purchase and makeover of the property, which is still nearly half of what the casino originally cost more than 25 years ago.
That would appear to put Landry’s in a no-lose situation. But Fertitta admitted there are risks in any business venture.
Golden Nugget encouraged its guests, through a variety of construction-related promotions, to be part of the sweeping makeover that actually began a few weeks before the casino’s parent company, hospitality industry giant Landry’s Inc., purchased the former Trump Marina for $38 million.
Fakefest is happening Friday through Sunday, July 8-10, at The Deck at Golden Nugget (at A.C.’s Farley State Marina). As has been the trend from year to year, all the bands playing Fakefest — and paying tribute to the classic rockers of yesteryear — are top-shelf.
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There’s a new player in Atlantic City as the Golden Nugget officially took over operations of the former Trump Marina Tuesday, promising a $100 to $150 million renovation of the aging, and frankly, somewhat boring casino.
In what they hope will be a sweetheart deal announced on Valentine Day yesterday, Tilman J. Fertitta, Chairman, President, CEO and owner of Landry’s, Inc., parent company to the Golden Nugget Las Vegas and Laughlin, announced that Landry’s has agreed to buy the Trump Marina Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City.
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