Futures of former Atlantic City casinos being determined by current events; Betfair gets OK

Industries Associated Press

A series of rapid-fire developments that could go a long way toward determining the futures of two former Atlantic City casinos unfolded Friday.

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New Jersey gambling regulators gave permission to Betfair, the European online gambling company, to continue to operate in the state even after its brick-and-mortar partner, Trump Plaza, shuts down on Sept. 16.

David Rebuck, director of the state Division of Gaming Enforcement, said Betfair can keep taking online bets in the state until Trump Plaza's casino license is surrendered, which is likely to be well after the Sept. 16 shutdown and would give Betfair ample time to make other arrangements.

"They want to remain fully functional and stay in New Jersey, and we will work with them to do that," Rebuck said.

Betfair did not immediately respond to requests for comment Friday.

Also on Friday, Landry's Inc., the Texas firm that owns the Rainforest Cafe at Trump Plaza, filed a lawsuit asking a judge to order Trump Entertainment Resorts to allow it to remain open for 90 days after the casino closes. That would give it time to connect its own utilities and continue operating independently of the casino.

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Steve Scheinthal, general counsel for Houston-based Landry's, said the cafe's customers enter and leave through the Boardwalk and have nothing to do with the casino. Landry's also owns the Golden Nugget casino in Atlantic City, which it bought from Trump Entertainment in 2011.

The issue has also arisen this week with HQ, a club at the now-closed Revel, which also wants to stay open.

"We're trying to save our business and 200 jobs," Scheinthal said. "I understand you're losing money. But I'm paying you money."

He said the Rainforest Cafe pays $450,000 a year in rent and has a lease giving it the right to operate at Trump Plaza through 2028. The lawsuit says Trump Plaza is violating advance warning clauses of the lease that could theoretically result in nearly $23 million in compensation for the terminated lease.

Trump Entertainment officials did not return numerous requests for comment.

And the future of the Showboat was in play Friday as well. Latitude 360, a Jacksonville, Florida, company, said the newly closed casino is one of three locations in Atlantic City it is considering for a $20 million project. It would not involve gambling.

Company CEO Brent Brown said he has toured the former casino, which closed on Sunday, and has been in talks with its owner, Caesars Entertainment.

"We feel Atlantic City is a perfect location for us," he said. "The food and beverage component there is very strong."

Brown would not detail his negotiations with Caesars for the property. Caesars officials said the property can still be had.

"We have consistently said that we would entertain reasonable offers for the property from credible buyers with access to the required capital," the company said Friday. "Our position on this has not changed."

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Wayne Parry can be reached at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC